MPAA Now Says It Can Regulate Internet Advertisements

from the but-why? dept

It's no secret that the MPAA's highly secretive rating process doesn't make very much sense. Kevin Smith, the well known director (and sometimes actor) got some press recently when he convinced the MPAA to change its initial rating of his new movie, Zack and Miri Make a Porno from an NC-17 to an R. There was also some buzz online about the MPAA's odd rejection of a movie poster for the film that seems pretty harmless. However, perhaps much more interesting is the information hidden at the bottom of a Salon.com interview with Smith about the whole ratings process, where Smith notes that he was surprised to find out that the MPAA now claims authority over not just posters, but any online ads for the movie as well -- even if they don't even include any footage from the movie:
I put up a teaser trailer [for "Zack and Miri"] back in April that had no footage from the actual movie in it. Just Seth and Elizabeth riffing. And the MPAA made us take it down. They said, "Look, we're in charge of all marketing materials as well, and we didn't approve this." So they made us take it down.
The MPAA's job is to rate the movies, not the ads for the movies -- especially when they're appearing online. But since the whole thing is "voluntary" (and secretive) and no theater will show a film without an MPAA rating, basically filmmakers are forced to play ball with the MPAA's regulatory whims. And, those whims can be really bizarre sometimes. Remember the movie poster that wasn't approved because a gun was aimed directly outward (and, the MPAA effectively argued, some people might think it will shoot them).

And it may get even worse. While Smith doesn't seem too worked up about the whole thing (or, rather, he's not worked up at all), he also wonders, as an aside, if the MPAA will also start regulating DVD extras. In noting that, these days, any content that the MPAA requires people to cut, will eventually make it onto the DVD anyway, he sort of wonders if the MPAA is going to expand its purview over DVD content also -- which is where he brings up the issue of the MPAA claiming control over movie trailers.


Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 10th, 2008 @ 11:49am

    I wouldn't go to a movie theater to save my life!

    They can take their ads and stick them up their a$$!

     

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  2.  
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    Duudish, Sep 10th, 2008 @ 11:55am

    BT the Movie

    Smith should screw em all and just put the movie on PB. That'll learn em.

     

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  3.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 10th, 2008 @ 12:02pm

    dont forget the ESRB

    "The MPAA's job is to rate the movies, not the ads for the movies "

    The ESRB also rates Ads, not just games. A coupld of years ago Microsoft claimed they were forced to take some steps about advertising on XBOXLive by the ESRB. Since the ESRB is just a copy of the MPAA, I think Smith is likely correct here.

     

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  4.  
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    Fernando, Sep 10th, 2008 @ 12:16pm

    straw man

    It wouldn't matter if the MPAA objected to additional content on a DVD. By the time the disk is issued, the movie's rating has been out for months and cannot be changed.

     

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  5.  
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    Anonymous Coward, Sep 10th, 2008 @ 12:22pm

    The "ratings system" employed by the MPAA was adopted many years ago to try and avoid federal intervention into the movie industry. Consequently, I have a difficult time getting worked up about a system that is self-imposed versus government mandated.

    It should be noted that the "ratings system" also applies to advertisements per agreement by MPAA members, so it seems hardly newsworthy that internet advertisements are also covered.

    Re the "porn" poster, it was MPAA's call. While some may think its rejection was silly (reflection of Victorian attitudes), it is fairly easy to see why it raised some concerns.

    In the final analysis I believe it is far better to have the industry "police" itself than have the heavy hand of both federal and state authorities impose their will.

     

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  6.  
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    JB, Sep 10th, 2008 @ 12:25pm

    Re: straw man

    "By the time the disk is issued, the movie's rating has been out for months and cannot be changed."

    If the ESRB is a clone of the MPAA then the fact that the GTA: San Andreas game's rating change from MA to AO should be an indication that ratings can be changed after release.

    Also, I seem to remember seeing something on the 'ratings screen' that shows up, for DVDs, saying basically that only the feature film is rated and not the bonus features such as deleted scenes, commentary, games, documentaries, etc. However, each trailer included on the DVD is rated independently and usually set at 'Everyone.'

     

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  7.  
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    Yakko Warner, Sep 10th, 2008 @ 12:25pm

    They rate trailers as well

    It's been a while since I've been in a theater, but I seem to recall notices before trailers such as "The following PREVIEW has been rated 'PG' by the MPAA" (with the rating for the actual movie appearing in smaller text below). So it doesn't seem out of line for them to be stamping a rating on promotional materials.

    The "we're in charge of everything" attitude would really bother me, though. It certainly doesn't seem "voluntary" if a producer chooses not to have a certain promotional item stamped with their rating, and they can demand it not be used. The implied statement is "If you don't submit everything to us first, we'll retract our rating for your movie, and no theater will ever show it." Sounds like extortion to me.

     

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  8.  
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    Bob, Sep 10th, 2008 @ 12:25pm

    I'll say this again....

    The crud coming out of Hollywood is unoriginal and uninspired.

    Mr. Smith should do whatever he wants to and tell the MPAA to take a hike. Yes, the LARGE movie houses won't show an unrated MPAA film, but the smaller, independent Film Houses will, and more often then not, their audiences are more educated and have more appreciation for INDIE Films in general.

    The MPAA is the Movie Industry's cancer, much like the RIAA is for the Recording Industry. Eventually, let's hope, more and more people will wake up to the crap going on and start making changes with their pocketbooks. If Mommy and Daddy stopped giving money to their children to see CRAP from Hollywood, then Hollywood would have to wake up and really listen. I would think about 2 weeks of people going to no movies, would pretty much cripple their industry and force the bigwigs to re-think their position on the MPAA.

     

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  9.  
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    Charming Charlie, Sep 10th, 2008 @ 12:27pm

    If you'd like to see a documentary that exposes the kinds of homophobic and unqualified members appointed to MPAA panels with virtually no oversight or recourse for movie makers, check out This Film Is Not Yet Rated.
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0493459/

     

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  10.  
    identicon
    Darryl, Sep 10th, 2008 @ 12:27pm

    Until amazon says your DVD must be MPAA approved

    I don't think the MPAA will try to regulate DVD content, they are just regulating things up to the point that they get into a theater. Since theater owners require MPAA rating on movies you must jump through MPAA hoops.

    Since the major retailers don't require MPAA ratings on what they sell I don't think the MPAA will start rating DVD content.

     

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  11.  
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    *angry dude, Sep 10th, 2008 @ 12:43pm

    Re:

    I approve this comment.

    You punks.

     

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  12.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 10th, 2008 @ 12:44pm

    "The state has no business in the bedrooms of the nation" - Pierre Elliott Trudeau (Former Canadian Prime Minister)

    That being said...you should see how often they propose a threesome.

     

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  13.  
    identicon
    andy, Sep 10th, 2008 @ 1:10pm

    This movie not yet rated

    Is a great documentary! I couldn't belive some of the stuff they did. It is a true hack!

     

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  14.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 10th, 2008 @ 1:19pm

    Re: Re:

    Your a punk! Get a life.

     

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  15.  
    icon
    Isaac K (profile), Sep 10th, 2008 @ 1:23pm

    Re: Re:

    wait... actual APPROVAL from angry dude?

    or are you just *angry dude, pseudomimic and nom de plume?

     

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  16.  
    identicon
    *angry dude, Sep 10th, 2008 @ 1:40pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    note the star "*"
    you observant cretin :P

     

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  17.  
    identicon
    Jim, Sep 10th, 2008 @ 2:01pm

    Re:

    You should consider going to independent movie theaters. The E Street Cinema in Washington DC is having a Short Film Fest starting this week. You CAN go to theaters without supporting the MPAA.

     

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  18.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 10th, 2008 @ 3:12pm

    Re:

    "In the final analysis I believe it is far better to have the industry "police" itself than have the heavy hand of both federal and state authorities impose their will."

    Ok, the industry can police it's self, just as long as the industry stays the hell out of washington and quit trying to bribe politicians.

     

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  19.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 10th, 2008 @ 4:19pm

    Who the hell needs these worthless companies anyways? A rating system? As if it's really that hard to develop a computer to do the same job. It infuriates me how these useless, money grubbing companies like the MPAA, RIAA, and ESA jam their foot into everyone's god damned business.

     

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  20.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Sep 10th, 2008 @ 4:50pm

    Re:

    Strange coincidence - I literally just finished watching "This Film is Not Yet Rated"...

    I personally always find the US rating system fascinating. Having grown up in the UK, I was always jealous of the way that filmmakers still had the "unrated" loophole to release movies without a rating (it's illegal to do so in the UK), and I was also jealous of the way that most movies were rated R and below, meaning that younger people can actually get in (if a movie is rated 15 or 18 in the UK, that's the limit, it's illegal to let younger people in).

    Once I've grown up though, the US system is as flawed as everyone else's, especially when it comes to sexual content. I'm a fan of Kevin Smith, so I'll be getting the least cut version of this I can when it hits DVD (I currently live in Spain so will probably skip the inevitably Spanish dubbed version in cinemas). Hope he does well, and hopefully people are listening.

    As for the MPAA's actions. the gun poster mentioned in Mike's article is kind of understandable as it's in public - albeit definitely an overreaction. But a trailer on a website owned by the filmmakers? I'm fairly sure not even the BBFC have that kind of overbearing power.

     

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  21.  
    identicon
    Phillip Vector, Sep 10th, 2008 @ 5:08pm

    "I'm fairly sure not even the BBFC have that kind of overbearing power."

    Technically, neither does the MPAA. It's all volunteer.

    As I'm sure you realize though (since you just saw the movie) that the MPAA can say, "Do what we want or else" and most people jump.

    Power does not have to be in the lawbooks to be power.

     

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  22.  
    identicon
    Dan, Sep 10th, 2008 @ 5:17pm

    The MPAA lost its true purpose when having the 'unrated version' become a selling point. These are acts of desperation.

    If the sole purpose of the MPAA became suing for copyright infringement, its value would be too questionable for it to survive in its own industry.

     

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  23.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 10th, 2008 @ 6:37pm

    The MPAA can not even regulate their own

     

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  24.  
    icon
    PaulT (profile), Sep 11th, 2008 @ 3:25am

    Re:

    Fair enough. My comment was that while the BBFC's decisions are legally binding (it's a criminal offence to distribute an unrated movie), at least US distributors can ignore the MPAA if they wish. Yes, they will lose a lot of money by doing so, but at least the option's there.

     

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  25.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 3:46am

    Game over

    Oh Yeah!

    I love it when an organization which was run by Jack Valenti for several years, a man who oversaw Nixon move in with Bush SR who was head of the CIA at the time, decides to uphold a legacy from a generation of bullshit liars!

    Seriously? The best you could do is McCain and ColdTits Alaska McGee? Her husband isn't even Republican! Shows what faith she had in herself!

    I feel bad for that guy. The five kids is probably all the action he got!

    Hubbity Hubbity Hubbity!

     

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  26.  
    identicon
    Twinrova, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 4:12am

    And this affects sheople how?

    The MPAA, ERSB, and the TVPG can all go to hell. Each of these often allow one "rating" to slide while another gets "axed". Manhunt 2 is a perfect example.

    No offense, but I don't like having others dictate to me what is deemed offensive.

    Granted, they're merely guidelines, but they're very outdated guidelines.

    Why people tolerate them is beyond me.

     

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  27.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 5:10am

    Re: Game over

    "I feel bad for that guy. The five kids is probably all the action he got!"


    shhhhh . . . its really only four . . . hehe

     

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  28.  
    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 5:17am

    "The MPAA, ERSB, and the TVPG can all go to hell. Each of these often allow one "rating" to slide while another gets "axed". Manhunt 2 is a perfect example. No offense, but I don't like having others dictate to me what is deemed offensive. Granted, they're merely guidelines, but they're very outdated guidelines. Why people tolerate them is beyond me."

    In terms of the game industry the ESRB has TOTAL control over retail distribution in the UNited States. If they lable your game AO, they have literally killed it as there is no retail chain in the United States that will carry it (none, nada, zip). The AO rating is defacto censorship and if the ESRB were honest about it, they would admit it. The fact that they contiue to deny this obvious reality, leads me to believe that they are indeed, NOT terribly honest as an oganization (that along with M rating which essentially means "safe for minors" - this is a cop-out rating which combined with the AO retail ban means THERE CAN NEVER BE ANY VIDEO GAME MARKETED EXCLUSIVELY FOR ADULTS ).

     

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  29.  
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    BTR1701, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 10:29am

    DVD Extras

    > In noting that, these days, any content that the MPAA requires
    > people to cut, will eventually make it onto the DVD anyway,
    > he sort of wonders if the MPAA is going to expand its purview
    > over DVD content also -- which is where he brings up the issue
    > of the MPAA claiming control over movie trailers.

    I don't see how they could expand their control to DVD extras. All of the MPAA's leverage stems from the fact that filmmakers have to submit to their films to the ratings process because theaters won't show movies without a rating. However, that's not the case with video rental stores and sites like Netflix. Those businesses have no problem renting unrated DVDs-- indeed, the fact that a DVD is unrated is usually a major selling point to get people to rent a movie they may have already seen with the lure of being able to see material restored into the film that the MPAA forced out during the film's theatrical run.

    As the article notes, the ratings system is voluntary. There's no law requiring filmmakers to submit their film to the MPAA and without any leverage, the MPAA is powerless to enforce any attempt to regulate DVD extras.

     

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  30.  
    identicon
    John, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 2:06pm

    Agree with ratings for ads

    As crazy as this sounds, I'm sort-of glad that the MPAA wants to control the ratings on ads.
    On the other hand, who has the final say about which ads can be run? Even if the MPAA doesn't rate ads, shouldn't the people running the ad make sure it's appropriate for the audience?

    Here's a great example: suppose I take my 10 year old kid to see "Star Wars: Episode III". Sure, the movie is rating PG-13, but it's "Star Wars"- we know there's nothing bad in it.
    But, do I want my 10 year old exposed to ads for other PG-13 movies like "Charlie's Angels" or the latest Japanese-translated horror movie?

    Will the MPAA rate trailers for these movies as PG-13? Will the theater-owners have enough taste to not show trailers like these before movies which have a large audience of kids?

     

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  31.  
    identicon
    tb, Sep 11th, 2008 @ 4:34pm

    MPAA has been approving ads and posters for movies for years

    The MPAA has been doing this for years(rating ads for movies as well as the movies). The trailers that are allowed to run before PG and PG-13 rated movies are approved by the MPAA to be (in their view) appropriate for that age group. Green Band trailers are made for R-rated movies in order to be shown in front of G, PG, PG-13 rated movies.There are Red Band trailers that can only be shown before R-rated movies. And it is true with posters and print advertising as well. It seems like they see overseeing internet ads as an natural extension of their jurisdiction.

     

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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