Monday, June 15, 2009

Billboard (by Calvin Klein) in NYC provokes "COPA-like" controversy

A Calvin Klein billboard in Soho in Manhattan, at Lafayette and Houston Streets, is thought to go to far as it shows a threesome of young people whom some say are made to look underage. According to federal law, the producer of the ad would have had to document and register the ages of the models as at least 18.

The New York Daily News story is by Sara A. Armaghan and is here and it was featured Monday June 15 on ABC “Good Morning America”.

Neighborhood residents, in one of the nation’s most liberal areas (the West Village is nearby) say that the billboard sends the wrong message to minors and is harmful to them. Fashion companies say that they must promote their products in a competitive environment during economic downturn. There is no real oversight of the content of billboards. Is there a correspondence with the “harmful to minors” of COPA? Well, the pictures probably still wouldn’t have met the legal definition.

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Digital movie or TV filtering runs into DMCA/DRM problems: analogy with COPA filtering arguments?

Seth Schoen of Electronic Frontier Foundation has an interesting analysis of the Child Safe Viewing Act of 2007, which it had commented (to the FCC) on with “Examination of Parental Control Technologies for Video or Audio Programming, here.

Movie studios had sued ClearPlay over a product that skipped particular scenes in movies, and Congress passed the Family Movie Act in 2004 to protect innovators who offer playback movie editing from copyright infringement claims.

Then there is a product called TVGuardian, a V-chip alternative from Principal Solutions, which apparently will become ineffective in a digital environment unless the product is allowed to circumvent Digital Rights Management in order to filter shows for minors.

In the COPA case, many of the plaintiff’s arguments were based on the effectiveness of filters. In digital TV, DMCA anti-circumvention provisions can prevent similar effectiveness of filtering technology of shows and movies.

The link for Schoen’s analysis (June 8) is here.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

COPA, sexting, and "self promotion": we don't see around the corners

A day after more media reports that a central Virginia county sheriff was investigating another teen for possession of porn in his cell phone after receiving “sexting” meesages, it seems to me that the whole question of protecting minors – and the families that raise them – has become convoluted indeed. We constantly find more legal and security-related corners that we just don’t see around.

COPA was focused on what now seems, in retrospect, a relatively narrow issue, of images and perhaps text that would be “harmful to minors” when placed by commercial sites on public areas of the Internet. What we found was that many of the concepts weren’t so narrow: what is “commercial”, what is “prurient”, how relevant is the maturity level of the individual minor (the “Smallville Problem”). The Judge that decided the case, as well as the Supreme Court when providing guidance, articulated the idea that many supposedly stable legal concepts can play “shape shifter.”

But, even getting beyond the sexting issue as well as laws like COPA, what we find is that the biggest underlying problem for parents protecting minors is the easy self-promotion. A lot of it has to do with search engines, and a lot of it has to deal with the incredible power of social networking sites. When one draws attention to oneself before one has “paid his dues” and competed appropriately, one can attract unwelcome and unexpected attention to oneself and even other family members (especially of teens). We’re finding this particularly in the behavior of employers, making sniff judgments on social networking profiles (it seems that this happens now even with profiles supposedly marked private), and it is a problem that seems to be growing. This isn’t really a teen’s problem. Teenagers learn that the world is a competitive place, and in the world that they can perceive, the web, as well as the high school stadium (or the classroom) is a place that everyone competes. No wonder they do what they do. They’re just copying what they learn from us, and they can’t see around all the corners. But neither do we.