Friday, October 27, 2006

COPA: A note about self-censorship

The ACLU audio broadcast about the arguments in the COPA trial (link -- look for "Resources" and "Audio" on this page))makes mention of the possibility of self-censorhsip by web speakers and publishers in view of COPA. This might happen because speakers fear the way the unpreductable definition of HTM could be applied, at least at an intellectual level.

When I became a sub-plaintiff under Electronic Frontier Foundation in 1998, I was told that I was the only plaintiff who had already self-censored. There is still a small amount of self-censorship on my site, explained at this link. This is mostly in the first three chapters of the online display of my first "Do Ask Do Tell" book, which can be scanned by search engines for "bad words." Generally, racy or literalily graphic language has been replaced by a more "professional" vocabulary to express a particular concept, but the "representation" (Prong II) of a "dangerous" idea is still there.

I have also self-censored some material in my online screenplay exhibits, but this is more for other considerations. At least one screenplay has been removed. There are potential legal considerations outside of the scope of COPA (as defined)but related to minor protection when one displays fictitious or dramatic works online. There are also international issues, since material can be viewed overseas.

It is possible that other plaintiffs have self-censored since 1998. That is what I was told by in late 1998.

One point to make here would concern content labeling. In a "voluntary" (or "pseudo-voluntary") content labeling system, given that all of the major software vendors had provided all the hooks needed (they still haven't yet), the publisher would have to self-apply the rating categories, which would be rather refined. There would be no bureaucratic and sheltered process as what happens with the movies and the MPAA (eg, the IFC film "This Film Is Not Yet Rated" about the movie rating process, which, after all, is organized and bureaucratized -- and secretive -- industry self-censorship).

No comments: