Congressman prepares pic alteration bill

Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) is readying legislation that would allow directors to notify consumers of their objections if pix have been materially altered.

Frank’s film-labeling bill will surely delight the Directors Guild of America , which has been fighting a long battle with the Motion Picture Assn. of America to require consumer notification if films shown on broadcast TV or homevideo are subjected to editing, “lexiconning” or “panning and scanning” without the permission of creative artists.

However, it appears the bill may face rough sledding in Congress. Congressional staffers said this week that DGA’s call for a tough film-labeling bill has been neutralized by MPAA’s softening of its resistance to labels of any kind.

MPAA member companies say they are now willing to voluntarily label all films that have been altered. For example, on pix that have been time compressed or expanded to meet the needs of broadcasters, MPAA is proposing a label that reads: “The running speed of some frames of this film has been altered slightly.”

MPAA’s proposed labels do not go far enough for directors and screenwriters, who argue that legislation is necessary to ensure that artists have the right to object to films that have been altered.

Frank said his bill will be intended “more as protection for artists than for consumers.”

In offering the legislation, Frank assumes the role of retired Rep. Robert Mrazek, the New York Democrat who was DGA’s best friend in Congress before attempting an ill-fated bid for the U.S. Senate last year.

Frank is a member of the House copyright subcommittee.

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