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Barney in the Backseat Causes Legal Quandary

29 Apr, 2004 By: Thomas K. Arnold

While some of the sharpest minds in Hollywood are debating the pros, cons and “what ifs” of the high-definition, next-generation optical disc, good old DVD continues to forge ahead, setting new sales records and changing the way consumers regard movies, from a simple transitory pleasure to something to buy, keep and cherish.

Not only does the DVD market continue to be on an upward sales trajectory, but the format's mass appeal is branching outward in some surprisingly ways.

We've all been monitoring the rise of mobile DVD — specifically, DVD players in SUVs and minivans to keep the kids occupied on road trips. Barney in the backseat, as it's referred to at those mobile electronics shops that advertise complete car setups for as little as $600 installed.

But Barney's getting some company. Tony Perez of Ground-Zero Entertainment told me last year that a good chunk of his urban and Latino films were being purchased by teens and young adults who considered front-dash DVD monitors a must-have bling-bling.

And now comes Time magazine with a report on yet another mobile DVD mutation, and one that gives “Barney in the backseat” a whole new (and salacious) meaning.

“Dirty Driving in the DVD Age” is the headline. The article talks about a legislative crackdown on “drive-by-porn — that is, folks playing blue movies in their cars.”

According to the article, parents whose children “have been exposed to the stuff by seeing the images as they pass a car are urging lawmakers to curb the road shows.” Already, the Tennessee state legislature has passed a bill prohibiting drivers from screening “obscene or patently offensive” videos in their cars if said videos can be seen by passing motorists. The measure is expected to become law July 1, according to Time.

The article notes that civil-rights advocates oppose this latest incarnation of the age-old attempt to legislate morality because it is too vague and may violate free-speech and privacy rights.

“Would a cop levy a fine for airing, say, an NC-17 flick like Showgirls or only for more explicit fare like Debbie Does Dallas?” Time asks. “Republican Mark Norris, a sponsor of the Tennessee bill, has an idea but can't quite put it into words. Scooby-Doo, he says, is fine, but ‘if it's another Scooby, that's another matter.’

Something to ponder, eh?

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