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2013: April-June

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Rated R for 'Researchers' Pet Prohibition...

Health researchers call for movies featuring alcohol to be R rated

Link Here3rd June 2013

Researchers at Dartmouth-Hitchcock's Norris Cotton Cancer Center say MPAA film ratings should take depictions of alcohol use into consideration.

In fact, their newly published study suggests that movies showing alcohol use in contexts that could increase curiosity or acceptability of unsafe drinking should be rated R.

Elaina Bergamini is the lead author of the study, Trends in Tobacco and Alcohol Brand Placements in Popular U.S. Movies, 1996 through 2009, published last week in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

The study looked at the top 100 movies in each of those 14 years, counting how many times alcohol and tobacco brands were depicted in all 1,400 movies. Bergamini and her fellow researchers found that while depictions of tobacco brands dropped during that period, depictions of alcohol brands in movies rated G, PG, or PG-13 went up markedly. In 1998, she explained, tobacco companies signed the so-called Master Settlement Agreement. As part of that agreement, the companies agreed to end product placements of their brands in film and TV.

However brand placement for alcohol is still self-regulated. And the study found that alcohol brand placement has increased significantly in movies rated acceptable for youth audiences, a trend that could have implications for teen drinking. The number of alcohol brand appearances in youth-rated movies increased from about 80 per year at the beginning of the study period to 145 per year at the end. About two-thirds of those top-100 movies in the study were rated G, PG or PG-13. And it turned out that 63% of all alcohol brand appearances were in youth-rated films.

She contends alcohol companies are intentionally inserting their brands into movies that youngsters will see. She claims:

They're trying to generate brand loyalty in a subset of the population that can't drink yet. So when they go to drink that first time, they know what to ask for.



Update: Immature Legislation...

New Jersey Lawmaker proposes law to ban 17 year olds from buying 17 rated games

Link Here8th May 2013
Full story: US Mass Shootings...Gun lobby vs violent media

New jersey State Assemblyman Sean Kean has introduced two bills that stem from reports that Adam Lanza, the 20-year-old shooter behind the Dec. 14 Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown, Conn, owned some violent video games, including games that carried a '17' rating, mature.

Kean's legislation would restrict the sale of video games rated mature or adults only to minors.

Officials in several states have attempted to pass laws that would prohibit the sale of certain video games to minors, but none have succeeded. Citing First Amendment protections.

The first bill proposed by Kean would prohibit retailers from selling video games that are rated mature or adults only to anyone under 18. The second would require the presence of a parent for a minor to purchase a violent video game.

Any retailer found to be in violation of either bill would be subject to a $10,000 fine for the first offense and up to $20,000 for each subsequent instance; be forced to cover any punitive damages to the minor who purchased the game; and could be on the receiving end of a cease-and-desist order from the state Attorney General's Office.

Though both of Kean's pending bills are currently backed by a small cadre of Republicans. Assembly members from the other side of the aisle have also taken on the violent video game debate. Democratic Assemblywoman Linda Stender (Union) is preparing a bill that would ban violent video games from public places such as arcades.



In the Name of Security...

US snooper's charter passes in the House of Representatives

Link Here22nd April 2013

In the wake of this week's passage of the controversial Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA) by the U.S. House of Representatives, representatives from internet activists Anonymous are calling for an Internet Blackout Day on Monday in protest.

Specifically, Anonymous is calling upon website owners to take down their normal pages and replace them with a page that explains the reasons for the  protest.

CISPA is a US snooper's charter which would allow Internet Service Providers and other Web-themed companies to share information about their users with the government and one another under the guise of cyber-security -- with increased protection against any privacy lawsuits that their users might bring as a result.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation have explained in a FAQ:

Whenever these prerequisites are met, CISPA is written broadly enough to permit your communications service providers to share your emails and text messages with the government, or your cloud storage company could share your stored files

Although the bill passed the house, there are still some fairly significant hurdles before CISPA springs alive. Not only does the bill have to make its way through the Senate, it also has to survive a previously threatened veto by the White House.



Update: Playing the Blame Game with a Very Weak Hand...

New Jersey lawmaker proposes to ban 17 and 18 rated video games from public arcades

Link Here18th April 2013
Full story: US Mass Shootings...Gun lobby vs violent media

A state lawmaker in New Jersey, Linda Stender, is planning to introduce legislation that would prohibit public spaces such as amusement parks, movie theaters, bowling allies, or restaurants from making video games rated mature [17 rated] or adults only available to play.

Under the proposed legislation, business owners could face fines of up to $10,000 for the first offense and $20,000 for repeated offenses.

In a statement introducing the proposed legislation, state Assembly Stender claimed that while violent video games don't necessarily cause violent behavior, they can play a role:

Children today are exposed to violent images more than ever. Violent video games can desensitize children to violence and give them a warped version of reality where violence and death have no consequences outside their TV screens.

However her proposed legislation could face legal problems not only because video games are considered a form of speech protected under the first amendment, but also because the mature ratings she is appealing to have not historically been applied to the arcade games she is specifically targeting anyway



Updated: Sorted! Jail the Kids for Accessing Porn...

EFF reports on US government seeking to criminalise children who ignore age restrictions in website terms and conditions

Link Here13th April 2013

Are You A Teenager Who Reads News Online? According to the US Justice Department, You May Be a Criminal

Disturbingly, the Departments of Justice (DOJ) of both the Bush and Obama administrations have embraced an expansive interpretation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA) that would literally make it a crime for many kids to read the news online. And it's the main reason why the law must be reformed.

The DOJ has taken the position that a violation of a website's Terms of Service or an employer's Terms of Use policy can be treated as a criminal act. And the House Judiciary Committee has floated a proposal that makes the DOJ's position law, making it a crime to access a website for any impermissible purpose. For a number of reasons, including the requirements of the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, many news sites have terms of service that prohibit minors from using their interactive services and sometimes even visiting their websites.

Take, for example, the Hearst Corporation's family of publications. If you read the terms of use for the Houston Chronicle, the San Francisco Chronicle, or Popular Mechanics websites, you'll find this language, screamed in all-caps:


In the DOJ's world, this means anyone under 18 who reads a Hearst newspaper online could hypothetically face jail time. But Hearst's publications aren't the only ones with overly restrictive usage terms. U-T San Diego and the Miami Herald have similar policies. Even NPR is guilty, saying teenagers can't access their services (including the site, NPR podcasts and the media player) without a permission slip.

We'd like to say that we're being facetious, but, unfortunately, the Justice Department has already demonstrated its willingness to pursue CFAA to absurd extremes. Luckily, the Ninth Circuit rejected the government's arguments, concluding that, under such an ruling, millions of unsuspecting citizens would suddenly find themselves on the wrong side of the law. As Judge Alex Kozinski so aptly wrote:

Under the government's proposed interpretation of the CFAA...describing yourself as 'tall, dark and handsome,' when you're actually short and homely, will earn you a handsome orange jumpsuit.

And it's no excuse to say that the vast majority of these cases will never be prosecuted. As the Ninth Circuit explained, Ubiquitous, seldom-prosecuted crimes invite arbitrary and discriminatory enforcement. Instead of pursuing only suspects of actual crimes, it opens the door for prosecutors to go after people because the government doesn't like them.

Are you a minor with a thirst for information? You, and your parents who vote, should together tell Congress to fix CFAA.

Update: Demand Justice for Aaron Swartz

6th April 2013. See

The Computer Fraud and Abuse Act is the law under which Aaron Swartz and other innovators and activists have been threatened with decades in prison. The CFAA is so broad that law enforcement says it criminalizes all sorts of mundane Internet use: Potentially even breaking a website's fine print terms of service agreement. Don't set up a Myspace page for your cat. Don't fudge your height on a dating site. Don't share your Facebook password with anybody: You could be committing a federal crime. Read more here .

It's the vagueness and over breadth of this law that allows prosecutors to go after people like Aaron Swartz, who tragically committed suicide earlier this year. The government threatened to jail him for decades for downloading academic articles from the website JSTOR.

Since Aaron's death, activists have cried out for reform of the CFAA. But members of the House Judiciary Committee are actually floating a proposal to expand and strengthen it -- that could come up for a vote as soon as April 10th! Read more here .

Update: Major Victory In Stopping Bad CFAA Bill, But Good Reforms Still Needed

13th April 2013. See  article from

We have great news on the last day of our week-of-action aimed at Congress over the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA), the draconian computer hacking law. Huffington Post is reporting that House Republicans put the brakes on an awful expansion to the CFAA that threatened Internet rights.

Even better, Huffington Post is crediting pressure from Internet activists for this major victory:

A House subcommittee with jurisdiction over the law, chaired by Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisc.), had planned to vote on a reform of the bill next week as part of a House Republican legislative flurry they dubbed Cyber Week, according to both Republican and Democratic aides on the panel. However, the bill was pulled back because of pressure from the Internet community.

All week, EFF and a host of other groups have been engaged in a week-of-action aimed at stopping this bill in its tracks. We started the week with a letter signed by EFF and organizations from across the political spectrum, but it's you, the Internet users, who have emailed, tweeted, and called Congress to make sure your voices have been heard. As Huffington Post reported:

The move to pull back plans to change CFAA is another indication of the growing strength of the cyber community, which first flexed its muscles in a public way to block SOPA, a bill that would have handed much more control of the Internet to government and its corporate allies.

It's important to remember, this fight is far from over. Even though the CFAA expansion has been tabled and there's reportedly no timeline for bringing it back, legislators could revive it at any moment. The Justice Department has been lobbying for these expansions for years, and there's no indication it will stop.



Update: The Struggle for China...

Apple bans app for the Chinese market that includes books banned there

Link Here13th April 2013
Full story: iPhone iCensor...Apple is censorial about apps for iPhone

Apple have blocked an iPhone bookstore app from the Chinese app store in an apparent attempt at appeasing censors, according to the app's developer.

The freemium app, Jingdian Shucheng , gave access to 10 books banned in China. Hao Peiqiang, the developer, told the Financial Times that he believes that his criticism of the Chinese government's policy on Tibet prompted the ban.

In a letter sent to Hao, Apple said that the app was removed because of content that was illegal in China . Hao suspects that content in question is three books written by Wang Lixiong, the dissident thrown out of Beijing during the National Congress.

Apple's App Store Review rules do indeed state that app's must comply with local laws:

Apps must comply with all legal requirements in any location where they are made available to users. It is the developer's obligation to understand and conform to all local laws.

Jingdian Shucheng remains available outside of the Chinese mainland.



Offsite Article: The Jefferson Muzzles 2013...

Link Here12th April 2013
The Thomas Jefferson Center for the Protection of Free Expression 'honors' censors of the USA

See article from



Update: Script Censorship...

Chinese censors edit storyline to Hollywood zombie film, World War Z

Link Here9th April 2013
Full story: China International Censors...China pressures other countries into censorship

Executives at the Hollywood studio, Paramount have been worrying about a minor plot point in the $175 million zombie film, World War Z , which stars Brad Pitt.

In the 'offending scene', characters debate the geographic origin of an outbreak that caused a zombie apocalypse and point to China, a Paramount executive told TheWrap.

The fast-rising prominence of the Chinese market, state censorship and the tight quotas for U.S. releases, the studio advised the movie producers to drop the reference to China and cite a different country as a possible source of the pandemic, an executive with knowledge of the film told TheWrap.

The change was made in recent days in the hopes of landing a deal for one of Paramount's biggest summer movies to play in China.



Diverting Attention...

Plane diverts after parents complain about sex and violence in the in-flight movie

Link Here7th April 2013

Alex Cross is a 2012 USA crime action mystery thriller by Rob Cohen.
With Tyler Perry, Matthew Fox, Rachel Nichols. YouTube iconBBFC link IMDb

A flight was diverted after a young family objected to the plane's violent and supposedly sexually explicit in-flight film. The United Airlines service was scheduled from Denver to Baltimore, but ended up in Chicago after the pilot changed course due to supposed security concerns .

The flight was showing the 2012 crime thriller Alex Cross , which is PG-13 rated in the US. In Britain it is 15 rated for strong violence and threat. The film was shown on drop down main screens rather than individual video screens.

The main scene of violence is described by the BBFC in its BBFCInsight from :

The main scene of violence and threat establishes Picasso's nature as a sadistic killer. After seducing a woman and tying her to a bed for what appears to be consensual sex, Picasso injects the woman with a paralysing agent and proceeds to cut off her fingers. The cutting of the fingers occurs offscreen and the clippers are only shown to touch the woman's skin. A severed finger is briefly seen as it is dropped into a bowl but there is no visible blood and no focus on the woman's injuries.

The parents of two children, aged four and eight, first asked flight attendants for it to be turned off at the monitor, then asked if the captain had the means to do so. Nothing happened for more than an hour, they claimed, leaving them trying to divert their children's attention from scenes they described as horrific . The pilot then announced the plane would be landing at Chicago due to security concerns.

At the airport, the family were briefly interviewed by police and border protection officers, before being placed on a later flight.

The father accused the captain of abuse of power , and criticised the airline for showing grossly inappropriate cinematic content.



Update: Bad Language...

US TV censor bins 70% of queued complaints and reconsiders its censorship of fleeting nudity and strong language

Link Here2nd April 2013
Full story: FCC TV Censors...FCC wound up by nudity and fleeting expletives

After the US Supreme Court's decision in FCC v. Fox Television Stations in September 2012, FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski has initiate a review of the Commission's broadcast indecency policies and enforcement to ensure they are fully consistent with First Amendment principles.

In the interim, the Chairman directed the Enforcement Bureau to focus its indecency enforcement resources on egregious cases and to reduce the backlog of pending broadcast indecency complaints.

The Bureau has reduced the backlog by 70% so far, more than one million complaints, principally by binning them on the grounds that it had taken so long to process them that they were too stale to pursue.

The FCC now seek comments on whether the full Commission should make changes to its current broadcast indecency policies or maintain them as they are.

Update: American Family Association have their two Penneth

5th April 2013. See  article from

The American Family Association, a major pro-family group, has announced that Americans should petition the FCC to uphold high television, radio decency standards.

In addition to the overarching negative impacts of indecency in media on children, a more immediate issue exists: radio 'shock jocks' that thrive on shocking even the most hardened of sensibilities will have even greater latitude to express even more profanity without the worry of FCC censure, states AFA.

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