Scorsese Plugs For Artists’ Rights On Hill

Martin Scorsese made a pitch on Capitol Hill March 15 for legislation that would grant directors, screenwriters and cinematographers the right to warn viewers of their objections to films altered for viewing on airlines, homevideo and broadcast TV.

Scorsese appeared at a press conference to announce support for a bill reintroduced by Sen. Alan Simpson (R- Wyo.) and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) that al lows film creators to state their objections to pix that have been edited, time-compressed or expanded, or colorized for the aftermarket.

“Movies on TV are advertised as the original, but they are not,” Scorsese said. “Let’s take the unfairness out of the distribution process. Just tell people how movies have been altered…. And let me have the chance to say I object to these changes if the alterations are objectionable.”

Also on hand for the press confab was Rep. John Bryant (D-Texas), who offered separate “moral rights” legislation that would define the director, screenwriter and cinematographer as the “author” of a motion picture. Currently, U.S. law recognizes the movie studio as the legal author of a film.

Bryant said it is “absurd” that Sony is considered the author of “The Bridge on the River Kwai” and that Universal is the legal author of “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial.”

The Simpson/Frank bill is similar to legislation that has died in the two previous sessions of Congress. The Motion Picture Assn. of America adamantly opposes the proposal, and in years past has lobbied successfully to throttle the bill in committee.

Simpson conceded that film labeling legislation “may not be the most dramatic image on (Congress’) radar screen at this time.” However, he said it is “demeaning and wholly inappropriate” for black and white films to be colorized.

Two years ago, Jeffrey Katzenberg, then-chairman of Walt Disney Studios, persuaded MPAA members to back a voluntary film labeling scheme.

Directors and screenwriters have called the MPAA/Katzenberg plan only a “first step,” claiming that legislation is needed to ensure full disclosure of material film alteration for the viewing public.

Capitol Hill sources say privately that backers of the new legislation may face tough sledding convincing Congress to wade into the issue, particularly with deregulation-minded Republicans running Washington.

One studio source predicted the Simpson/Frank bill and the Bryant legislation will be “dead on arrival” in the Republican Congress. “The only bills moving through this Congress will be deregulatory,” said the studio source, who claimed Congress is “not likely to regulate on top of a voluntary labeling system that’s already working.”

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