Sony have been regularly 'sanitizing' their movies but cutting down the violence and strong language so as to make
them suitable for children. These versions are targeted at airlines and daytime TV but earlier this month Sony decided to make these sanitised versions available to download at home, choosing 24 titles:
50 First Dates, Battle Of The Year, Big Daddy, Captain Phillips, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Easy A, Elysium, Ghostbusters, Ghostbusters II, Goosebumps, Grown Ups, Grown Ups 2Hancock, Inferno, Moneyball, Pixels, Spider-Man, Spider-Man 2,
Spider-Man 3, The Amazing Spider-Man, The Amazing Spider-Man 2Step Brothers, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, White House Down
The censorship cuts are typically very extreme. For example, the clean version of Will Ferrell comedy Step Brothers - originally given an R rating for crude and sexual content according to Sony - has had 23 instances of violence taken out,
152 of bad language and 91 of sexual content.
The Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler romcom 50 First Dates had a PG13 for crude sexual humour and drug references. Its clean version has 10 violent moments taken out, 34 uses of bad language and 34 instances of sexual content.
Matt Damon sci-fi film Elysium , which also had an R rating for bloody violence, had 18 of those violent moments taken out, 63 uses of bad language and one instance of sexual content.
Horror comedy Goosebumps was a PG when it came out - so could be described as family-friendly already. But its clean version had four fewer incidences of violence, with five uses of bad language and five examples of nudity taken out too.
But now they've had to backtrack after filmmakers complained about the vandalisation of their works. After an outcry, the president of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Man Jit Singh, said their directors were of paramount importance to us and
they wanted to respect those relationships to the utmost:
We believed we had obtained approvals from the film-makers involved, for use of their previously supervised television versions as a value-added extra on sales of the full version. But if any of them are unhappy or have reconsidered, we will
discontinue it for their films.
Seth Rogen was one of the first to react when news of Clean Version emerged. He pleaded, adding a swear word for emphasis, please don't do this to our movies.
The Directors Guild of America (DGA) has said the hard-fought-for rights that protect a director's work and vision are at the very heart of our craft and a thriving film industry.
More than a dozen state legislatures are considering a bill called the " Human Trafficking Prevention Act
," which has nothing to do with human trafficking and all to do with one man's crusade against pornography at the expense of free speech.
At its heart, the model bill would require device manufacturers to pre-install "obscenity" filters on devices like cell phones, tablets, and computers. Consumers would be forced to pony up $20 per device in order to surf the Internet without
state censorship. The legislation is not only technologically unworkable, it violates the First Amendment and significantly burdens consumers and businesses.
Perhaps more shocking is the bill's provenance. The driving force behind the legislation is a man named Mark Sevier, who has been using the alias "Chris Severe" to contact legislators.
According to the Daily Beast
, Sevier is a disbarred attorney who has sued major tech companies, blaming them for his pornography addiction, and sued states for the right to marry his laptop. Reporters Ben Collins and Brandy Zadrozny uncovered a lengthy legal history for Sevier,
including an open arrest warrant and stalking convictions, as well as evidence that Sevier misrepresented his own experience working with anti-trafficking non-profits.
The bill has been introduced in some form Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, New Jersey, North Dakota, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, West Virginia, and Wyoming. We recommend that any legislator who has to consider this bill read the Daily
But that's not why they should vote against the Human Trafficking Prevention Act. They should kill this legislation because it's just plain, awful policy. Obviously, each version of the legislation varies, but here is the general gist.
Manufacturers of Internet-connected devices would have to pre-install filters to block pornography, including "revenge porn." Companies would also have to ensure that all child pornography, "revenge pornography," and "any hub
that facilitates prostitution" are rendered inaccessible. Most iterations of the bill require this filtering technology to be turned on and locked in the on position, by default.
This is terrible for consumer choice because it forces people to purchase a software product they don't necessarily want. It's also terrible for free speech because it restrains what you can see. Because of the risk of legal liability, companies are more
likely to over-censor, blocking content by default rather than giving websites the benefit of the doubt. The proscriptions are also technologically unworkable: for example, an algorithm can hardly determine whether an item of pornography is
"revenge" or consensual or whether a site is a hub for prostitution.
To be clear, unlocking such filters would not just be about accessing pornography. A user could be seeking to improve the performance of their computer by deleting unnecessary software. A parent may want to install premium child safety software, which
may not play well with the default software. And, of course, many users will simply want to freely surf the Internet without repeatedly being denied access to sites mistakenly swept up in the censorship net.
A Censorship Tax
The model bills would require consumers to pay a $20 fee to unlock each of their devices to exercise their First Amendment rights to look at legal content. Consumers could end up paying a small fortune to unlock their routers, smartphones, tablets, and
Anyone who wants to unlock the filters on their devices would have to put their request in writing. Then they'd be required to show ID, be subjected to a "written warning regarding the potential dangers" of removing the obscenity filter, and
then would have to sign a form acknowledging they were shown that warning. That means stores would be maintaining private records on everyone who wanted their "Human Trafficking" filters removed.
The Censorship Machine
The bill would force the companies we rely upon to ensure open access to the Internet to create a massive censorship apparatus that is easily abused.
Under the bill, tech companies would be required to operate call centers or online reporting centers to monitor complaints that a particular site isn't included in the filter or complaints that a site isn't being properly filtered. Not only that, but the
bill specifically says they must "ensure that all child pornography and revenge pornography is inaccessible on the product" putting immense pressure on companies to aggressively and preemptively block websites to avoid legal liability out of
fear of just one illegal or forbidden image making it past their filters. Social media sites would only be immune if they also create a reporting center and "remain reasonably proactive in removing reported obscene content."
It's unfortunate that the Human Trafficking Prevention Act has gained traction in so many states, but we're pleased to see that some, such as Wyoming, have already rejected it. Legislators should do the right thing: uphold the Constitution, protect
consumers, and not use the problem of human trafficking as an excuse to promote this individual's agenda against pornography.
Following in the footsteps of Utah and South Dakota, Arkansas has become the third U.S. state to pass a resolution claiming that pornography is a
public health crisis of epidemic proportions.
The resolution, which was passed unanimously last week, states that online porn is responsible for a host of social problems relating to sexuality and sexual violence. Representative Karilyn Brown, a sponsor of House Resolution 1042, whinged:
It is no longer just available in sleazy stores and distributed in brown paper bags.
The resolution claims that pornography proliferates abuse of women and children by depicting rape and abuse as if such acts are harmless, hyper-sexualization among youth, and a slew of other things related to so-called pornography.
All claims stated within the resolution, such as the idea that porn lessens the desire to marry and increases the demand for sex trafficking of young girls, are presented without sources.
The resolution does not have any specific or immediate impacts, it is intended for use by the state's Department of Health for education, prevention, and policy change at the community and societal levels.
Another similar resolution is now being considered in Tennessee.