29 Pages Posted: 16 Mar 2011 Last revised: 19 Oct 2011
Date Written: October 17, 2011
Concerns regarding the harmful influence of films on youth and adults have always motivated censorship and justified, in some minds, greater government control over content. Many motion pictures portray illegal conduct - theft, robbery, embezzlement, arson, drug dealing, assault, rape, murder, treason, and other crimes. In most instances, commission of the underlying crime is not needed for the production of the film. Despite the perpetual fear of the “capacity for evil” of films, the legality of motion pictures that commercialize crimes has not been studied as a concept. This Essay explores the reasons for this neglect and examines the problems this omission created during the debates over the ban on crush videos. The Essay shows that the evolution of content regulation in the motion picture industry, the actions of special interest groups, and the simplified manner in which lawmakers sometimes address complex issues have led to censorship regimes that ban genres rather than types of content. The Essay therefore explains the historical tendency to censor film genres, rather than addressing the meaning of crimes in films. Thus, the Essay argues that a general legal rule could be drawn for crimes in films: the production of films that commercialize crime should be banned. This rule is consistent with traditional First Amendment requirements.
Keywords: Motion Picture Industry, Censorship, First Amendment, Child Pornography, Crush Videos
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