Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law

First Page



Alteration of a motion picture has become legal as a result of the Family Movie Act, an attachment to the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act approved by Congress and signed by the President in early-2005. The "family movie" provision, championed by U.S. Representative Lamar Smith, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee's Internet and Intellectual Property Subcommittee, indemnifies any company that makes filtered versions of movies without authorization from the copyright owners. Proponents claim the bill is a way to put content-filtering back into the hands of individual families, while critics claim their copyrights are violated whenever a company redistributes their work for profit. At issue in this Note is this controversial law in relation to the United States' international obligations. The Family Movie Act appears to be contrary to our international obligations because it does not require the permission of the content creator or owner, but rather creates an exemption from copyright and trademark liability for filtering. The Author argues that there is a difference between enacting legislation that permits persons other than creators or authorized distributors of a motion picture profit from content filtration and a scheme that allows individuals, in the privacy of their own homes, to filter out undesired content. In fact, allowing a for-profit company to commercially market a product that alters an artist or copyright owner's artistic vision is a violation of moral rights--rights of the creators of the copyrighted works. The United States, as a party to the Berne Convention, is obligated to uphold and protect the moral rights of an artist. The Author further argues that the United States has historically provided in adequate protection to moral rights and that it should withdraw from the Berne Convention, accepting any associated sanctions. Otherwise, by disguising its minimal protections of moral rights, the United States seriously misleads foreign artists who desire to publish or distribute their works in the United States.