Thursday, July 29, 2010

What about "R" movie trailers embedded in blog postings?

I’ve noticed that a few smaller motion picture distributors place on YouTube trailers that (even as trailers) have been rated “R” and presumably contain material that might have met the definition of HTM had COPA been upheld. In one case (with Screen Media Films) an entire R rated film was placed on YouTube, but could only be viewed by those having YouTube accounts and logging on, which was supposed to provide evidence of being over 18.

In these cases, embed code was offered. Therefore, the interesting question arises that, had COPA been upheld or should some other form of COPA be passed in the future and meet constitutional challenges, could a blogger be violating COPA when using the embed code on a “commercial” blog (one with any paid advertising)?

Generally, when embed code is used, the first image of the video appears, and generally, as a practical matter, the image is not likely itself to contain HTM (“harmful to minors”) aspects. It’s only if the video is played from the embed that such images would later appear on the visitor’s computer, embedded within the blog posting as still visible. I don’t know if opinions were ever offered as to whether this would have violated COPA or any TOS provisions.

As a precautionary matter, I don’t embed trailers that themselves are rated R (it’s OK to embed a trailer for an R movie, but the trailer should not contain R images). Larger motion picture companies usually provide trailers that themselves are approved for all audiences. All distributors ought to do the same.

It would be interesting to wonder if ICRA content labeling could be placed in embeddable trailers.

Friday, July 23, 2010

McAfee automatically updates (my computer, at least) with Parental Controls, addressing COPA-like issues

Last night, on an older laptop with McAfee, the automated update loaded an apparently new McAfee Parental Controls feature. Afterward, when I went to the Security Center, it told me that I had not activated the Controls.

As I am the only person using the computer I don’t need them, but I found it interesting that it loaded. It appeared to give the parent the ability to supply keywords that would cause a webpage to be rejected.

Here’s a write-up at “Internet Filter Review”.

McAfee’s own "Security Insights Blog has a detailed discussion of its product here  ("“Parental Controls” – When Parents Don’t Want to Control Their Kids and Kids Don’t Want to Be Controlled") and a discussion of the evolution of filtering for HTM materials since 2000, particularly during the period of the COPA trials.

I remember AOL’s parental controls a few years ago, and I experimented with setting up a “young tween” screen name, and found it was not particularly effective.

I have to add that kids vary enormously in maturity. When I was substitute teaching, on one assignment I got a “blue screen” error and an eleven year old sixth grader knew how to get the machine back up with windows commands. (He’d be entering college by now, or be working for Facebook or Google.) Some kids catch on very quickly to how everything works.

Again, we see that private business can do more to protect minors than government -- the libertarain position.

Monday, July 19, 2010

FTC protects privacy of minor consumers in bankruptcy of "gay youth" magazine

Although the relevance to censorship and minors is perhaps tangential here, I wanted to pass on a news story about the FTC prohibiting the former publishers of a “gay youth” magazine called “XY” to sell or disseminate the personal information of subscribers, partly because it could compromise the lives of subscribers currently or because of past interests.

The magazine and website were quite glossy and impressive. The concept or subject matter might seem morally inappropriate to some people, but the publication did not actually contain material that met the usual legal standards for sexual explicitness or even HTM as under the now defunct COPA law.

The EFF story by Marcia Hoffman is “FTC: Don’t sell or use consumer information on gay youth”, link here.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Second Circuit rules against FCC broadcast indency rules, compare to CDA and COPA

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned the “indecency” rules at the FCC against commercial broadcasters, saying they are too vague, as reported today by Cecilia Kang in the Washington Post, link (web url) here. The rules had imposed considerable fines for certain words and acts appearin on broadcast television (Justin Timberlake and Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" in the 2004 Super Bowl halftime provided controversy.)

The ruling pointed out the arbitrary nature of what is considered indecent language, and that English tends to invent new metaphors almost daily to deal with sensitive sexual issues.

Major network and UHF broadcasters are subject to rules that don’t apply to other cable channels or to Web TV or Internet streams, adding further to inconsistency.

The Broadcasting Law blog has an article here. 

What’s interesting is that some of the points were argued for regular Internet speakers in both the Communications Decency Act (1997) and COPA litigation.

Here is the text of the Opinion Fox v. FCC
The earlier Petition for Review was here.

The Volokh Conpiracy site has this analysis.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Facebook, PTA form partnership to protect kids online when using site

Doug Gross has an article today on CNN, “Are your kids safe online? Facebook, PTA want to make sure”, link here. Embedded in the article is a link to a story about how young is too young for social networking sites, which say you must be 13 but have no way to prove it (as we know from the COPA trial).

Facebook and the Parent-Teacher Association developed a partnership to develop standards for proper Facebook use by minors.

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Australian group says filters don't work, in contradiction to US COPA trial

A group in Australia called the “Safer Internet Group” (link) has been lobbying for more systematic control of potentially HTM materials on the web, with a five-pronged approach, and it claims (in opposition to findings in the US COPA trial) that Internet filters really don’t protect minors, in a story by Ari Sharp in an Australian site called “the Age” here.

One of the prongs called for "comprehensive policing of illegal materials on the Internet".  But I'm not sure what's "illegal" in Australia compare to the U.S. 

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Do Blogger and Wordpress widgets for ICRA content rating exist yet?

I have noticed recently that some corporate sites, such as television station WJLA in Washington DC, are stating that they adhere to the ICRA content rating system. (Reminder, the Internet Content Rating Association is now part of the Family Online Safety Institute).

Since I have used Blogger as a repository of most of my new content (especially media reviews) for the past four years, I have wondered whether Blogger and Wordpress have widgets for installing ICRA labels, properly coded and linked, into individual blog posts. ICRA requires that every individual file or posting be labeled before a site can be considered ICRA-certified.

So far, I can’t find any evidence that one can. Here is a discussion from Feb. 2007 on Wordpress about the issue (link).

Blogger seems to have widgets for rating things, but not related to ICRA (link), for example, this link.

Perhaps it would be more logical that a blog be required to have only one rating set in the headers; parents could reasonably expect that all postings in a particular blog remain within certain constraints as to suitability.

Both Wordpress and Blogger allows developers to submit widgets but widgets must work and pass quality assurance standards to remain available.

One can imagine the same question about Myspace blog posts or even Facebook entries and tweets.

The question of rating widgets for blog posts  could become important in the future. Wordpress and Blogger are both very good at labeling and correlating huge volumes of archtypical posts (like movie or book reviews). Even though COPA was struck down in 2007 and the ruling has held, market pressures for rating systems for blogs could grow in the future.

If anyone has news on this matter, please comment.