Page images
PDF
EPUB

a copyright. The exhibition of unlicensed pictures at places of amusement for pay in the District of Columbia, or in any of the Territories of the United States, or any place under the jurisdiction of the United States, is prohibited. The penalty for a violation of this act is a fine of not more than $500 or imprisonment not more than one year, or both, and the confiscation of the films used illegally.

It is provided that a fee be charged for the licenses to defray the expenses of the commission.

The text of the bill follows:

Be it enacted, etc., That a Federal motion picture commission be, and the same is hereby, created, to be composed of five commissioners appointed by the President, one of whom shall be designated as chairman. The commission shall be a division of the Bureau of Education in the Department of the Interior.

SEC. 2. That each commissioner shall hold office for six years, except that when the commission is first constituted two commissioners shall be appointed for two years, two for four years, and one for six years. Each commissioner shall thereafter be appointed for a full term of six years, except that any person appointed to fill a vacancy shall be appointed only for the unexpired term of the member whom he shall succeed. The salary of the chairman shall be $4,000 a year and of each other commissioner $3,500 a year.

SEC. 3. That the commission may appoint advisory commissioners to advise and assist in the examination and censoring of films, who shall hold office during the pleasure of the commission and serve without compensation. No person shall be appointed an advisory commissioner who, directly or indirectly, has any pecuniary interest in the exhibition of motion pictures or in any film exchange or firm or corporation engaged in manufacturing motion-picture films.

SEC. 4. That the commission may appoint deputy commissioners and other assistants and fix the compensation of each. Actual and necessary traveling expenses shall be allowed to those who travel on the business of the commission. The commission shall be provided with necessary office furniture, stationery, supplies, projecting machines, and appliances necessary for inspection of films and for manufacture of film seals: Provided, however, That the entire cost of the commission, including salaries and all other expenses, except the cost of manufacturing seals, which is otherwise provided for, shall not exceed $40,000 a year.

SEC. 5. That the commission shall license every film submitted to it and intended for entrance into interstate commerce, unless it finds that such film is obscene, indecent, immoral, inhuman, or depicts a bull fight or a prize fight, or is of such a character that its exhibition would tend to impair the health or corrupt the morals of children or adults or incite to crime. The commission may license any film, subject to such excisions, amplifications, or alterations as the commission may direct and require to be made. The commission may, by unanimous vote, withdraw any license at any time for cause shown.

SEC. 6. That the commission shall adopt an appropriate seal, which shall be affixed, in such manner as the commission may direct, to every film approved by it. Such seal shall not be attached to any film which has been approved by the commission subject to revision until after the required changes have been made; a record of which shall be kept, and portions objected to shall be delivered into the possession of the commission.

SEC. 7. That when any film has been approved the commission shall issue a certificate in the form adopted by the commission. These certificates shall describe the film and shall bear a serial number and shall state its title, the day upon which it was approved by the commission, and the number of linear feet contained therein.

SEC. 8. That the commission may, if it has licensed a film, issue a seal and certificate for each duplicate thereof without an examination of such duplicate, upon the payment of the license fee hereinafter provided.

SEC. 9. That no copyright shall be issued for any film which has not previously received the certificate and seal of this commission.

SEC. 10. That no person, firm, or corporation shall carry or transport any film from one State into another State of the United States, or from any foreign country into any State of the United States, unless such film has been licensed by the commission and a true copy of the certificate accompanies it: Provided, That this section shall not apply to films consigned to this commission.

SEC. 11. That no motion-picture film which has not been licensed by the commission and which does not bear its seal and is not accompanied by its certificate shall be exhibited in any licensed place of amusement for pay or in connection with any business in the District of Columbia, or in any of the Territories of the United States, or any place under the jurisdiction of the United States.

SEC. 12. That a fee of $1 shall be charged for the examination by the commission of each film of one thousand feet or less, and 50 cents for each film which is a duplicate of any film which has been licensed. Any change or alteration in any picture on the film after it has been licensed, except the elimination of a part, shall be a violation of this act, and shall also void the (ertificate and seal of such film.

SEC. 13. That the commission shall annually, on or before the first day of January in each year, submit a written report to the United States Commissioner of Education. In this report, and by other means, the commission shall make recommendations to importers and producers of films and to the public regarding the educational and recreational use of motion pictures.

SEC. 14. That the penalty for violation of this act shall be a fine of not more than $500 or imprisonment not more than one year, or both, in the discretion of the court, and the films un wfully changed, exhibited, or transported shall be confiscated.

Sec. 15. That the commission shall have power to charge, in addition to the fee for each film, such a sum as is necessary to pay the expense of manufacturing the seals.

SEC. 16. That the fees received by the commission shall be paid monthly into the Treasury of the United States, except the money collected for the purpose of defraying the expense of manufacturing the seal, which the commission shall retain and expend in payment of such manufacturing expense.

SEC. 17. That three months after the commission has begun to license motion pictures, and at any time thereafter, the commission shall have power to reduce the fees to such a sum as will produce no larger income than is necessary to pay the entire cost of the commission, including salaries and all other expenses.

SEC. 18. That this act shall take effect immediately, except sections nine, ten, and eleven, which sections shall take effect nine months after date of the approval of this act.

The bill recommended in this report, let me say again, is verbatim et literatim the same as the Smith-Hughes bill now before the Sixty-fourth Congress and before this committee, the bill upon which this hearing is being held.

THREE SUPREME COURT DECISIONS SUSTAINING CENSORSHIP.

The second new thing that I present is the recent threefold verdict of the United States Supreme Court in support of motion-picture censorship, refuting in judgments on other censorships every constitutional objection that has been made to this bill in hearings before this committee or anywhere else. I hold in my hand United States Reports 236. On pages 230, etc., we have a very interesting discussion of the State censor boards of Ohio and Kansas.

Mr. POWERS, of Kentucky. What is the reported style of that case?

Dr. CRAFTS. There were two cases that were argued together. The first is The Mutual Film Corporation against the Ohio Industrial Commission, and the second is The Mutual Film Corporation of Missouri against Hodges, governor of the State of Kansas.

Mr. DALLINGER. Will you please give us the citation again? Dr. CRAFTs. United States Reports, volume 236, pages 230 to 258, the Ohio and Kansas censorship cases. Now, the whole matter is summed up, greatly to our convenience, in the final words of the second decision, which groups the two cases, and gives us this final verdict of the august court:

“We need not, therefore, repeat the reasoning” (that is, in the second case the court need not repeat the reasoning of the first case)

which establishes that both statutes are valid exercises of the police powers of the States, and are not amenable to the objections urged against them; that is, they do not interfere with interstate commerce nor abridge the liberty of opinion, nor are they delegations of legislative powers to administrative officers.”

Mr. POWERS of Kentucky. That is the Ohio and Kansas cases?

Dr. CRAFTs. Yes. The cases were argued together. The issues in those Ohio and Kansas cases were very much the same as were raised in the previous hearings on the pending bill. I estimate that about half of the legal arguments presented against this bill in the former hearings are swept away by the Supreme Court decisions. It would be almost a "contempt of court," certainly a contempt of committee, to raise here again the charge that this bill proposes an unconstitutional interference with the guaranteed freedom of the press or any other of the points that have been settled by the Supreme Court decisions. Hours of time were given by the attorneys of the film interests in the former hearings to the presentation of these now discredited objections to this bill.

Mr. Fess. Dr. Crafts, the decision of the Supreme Court that the Ohio law was constitutional would be conclusive, in your mind, that a law that we had passed would be constitutional?

Dr. CRAFTs. The same principles are involved in the Federal censorship proposed in this bill as in the Ohio and Kansas cases, and the same constitutional objections were urged there as have been urged here; for example, that censorship in the case of motion pictures interferes with liberty of expression, with the “ freedom of the press,” to which the motion pictures are claimed to be kin. The Supreme Court denies that there is any analogy between the press and miscellaneous pictures exhibited for amusement and financial profit. The claim that this bill would permit an unconstitutional delegation of legislative power to administrative officers is also settled by these Supreme Court decisions.

All the prejudice against censorship, which is industriously used in place of argument against this bill is based on despotic censorship of the press in other lands; and it is not an honest use of words to speak of a censorship of an amusement largely patronized by the young as a part of the press censorship which we all condemn and to which the Supreme Court declares this censorship is not in any way related.

EFFICIENT FEDERAL LEGISLATION AGAINST PRIZE-FIGHT FILMS.

I have another more recent Supreme Court decision. We are fortunate in having three Supreme Court decisions for our rock foundations to-day. I am very much interested in this third case, contesting the Rödenberry-Simmons Act, which barred out the Habana prize-fight films. The initiatory work on this law was my first work in restraining motion-picture films. I would be content if I had initiated only this one of the 16 acts of Congress introduced originally at my request, and had no other definite civic accomplishment to my credit for my whole life. It would have been worth while to have lived if only to save my country from being flooded with pictures of a negro indicted for white slavery and a white man voluntarily standing on the same brutal level, which, but for that law, would have been shown all over the country as a brace of heroes. The pictures were brought from Habana to Newark, N. J., and the deputy collector there decided they could not be admitted. The owner appealed to the United States Supreme Court. The title of the case is No. 644, October term, 1915, decided December 13, 1915. The title is L. Lawrence Weber, appellant, against Frederick S. Freed, deputy collector.

Let me quote from this decision a very interesting analogy to what has been said here about constitutionality in connection with the Smith-Hughes bill: “ The ground relied on for the relief was the averment that the prohibition of the act of Congress in question was repugnant to the Constitution because in enacting the same Congress exceeded its designated powers under the Constitution of the United States, and attempted under the guise of powers under the commerce clause to exercise the police power expressly reserved to the States." The Supreme Court disposes of that plea in this decisive fashion:

“The contentions are so devoid of merit as to cause them to be frivolous.”

That brings up the objection that has been argued before this committee in previous hearings, that this whole matter belongs to the States, and that this bill proposes an interference with “State rights." We thank the august court for their excellent characterization of the efforts so often made by men with a bad cause to prevent effective Federal legislation by pretending a great zeal for

State rights”: “ The contentions are so devoid of merit as to cause them to be frivolous."

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

DO FILMS NOW IN CIRCULATION NEED CENSORSHIP?

That is the next question to consider, now that we are assured that censorship is constitutional and that Federal censorship is the best kind. In answer I wish to submit the report of an investigation of the real character of current motion pictures made by the State superintendent of schools of West Virginia, Mr. M. P. Shawkey, who wrote me in a letter dated December 9, 1915:

I have your circular speaking of your campaign to have Congress pass a law regulating the moving-picture business. I am heartily in accord with any effort to improve the kind of service put before the public by the movies. A short time since we had a survey made of the programs presented by the shows on a leading street of our capital city during the period of a month. We found that out of the total number those that were

Per cent. Good” and “Not bad

25 “Bad” and Very bad

75 Cigarettes were shown in

35 Drink in.-

50 Gun play and murder in.

50 Deceit, intrigue, jealousy, or treachery was a leading feature in at least 40 per cent of the programs presented.

The “movie is powerful in its appeal to the child and is capable of great good or great evil, but as it has been during the past there can be no doubt that the evil is far in excess of the good accomplished. I am pleased to see signs of a gradual improvement, and I trust that the public is awakening to the importance and significance of the situation.

From my casual observations I should not estimate the bad motion pictures as more than one-fourth. I should not expect a film to be rejected by Federal censors because it made too frequent and too favorable a use of the deadly cigarette, which people and photoplayers alike often use because it is “an easy way to get action "the only head action of which many seem to be capable. The figures of Mr. Shawkey are too unfavorable to the films, unless perhaps that city, far away from New York's volunteer censors, is getting more than usual of the raw stuff. But the figures show at least that public opinion in the educational realm in West Virginia calls for higher standards than those of the New York censors who call themselves, without warrant, “the national board of censorship.” That board claims to inspect 99 per cent of the films now issued, and so must have sanctioned most of those which West Virginia educators condemned. It can not reasonably be assumed that only 1 per cent of the West Virginia exhibits were really “bad.”. From the point of view of the committee report I have quoted it is reason enough for providing a more efficient censorship if only 5 per cent of the films are “bad. 5

” I am very appreciative of the excellent unselfish service done by the unpaid censors of the New York board, but I regret that they have consented to depend for financial support on the very interest they are set to curb; and I also regret that they do not see that the New York standard for shows is by no means the American standard. Most of all, I regret they do not see that they need an official “national ” board to aid them if only to insure that their decrees are obeyed all over this great country.

PRESENT DOWNWARD TENDENCY OF THE MOTION-PICTURE OUTPUT.

But the worst is yet to come. We have percentages almost as big as Mr. Shawkey's from a leading film producer. If there were only 15 minutes for this hearing, I should be willing to rest our claim that a more efficient censorship of motion-picture films than we now have is urgently and immediately needed on this one page of the Motion Picture Weekly. I have brought the magazine here, because I should need character witnesses if I should quote this article without the original in my hand. This is the Motion Picture Weekly of November 20, 1915, and on this page Mr. Carl Laemmle, president of the Universal Film Manufacturing Co., of New York, which claims to be in communication with 22,000 motion-picture exhibitors, is talking with them in a business prospectus. Hear, remembering how often we have been assured in former hearings on this bill that the men in the motion-picture business are all too good to make or exhibit any harmful picture, however profitable, and regardless of any restraining law.

We are perfectly willing to assume that the human nature in the motion-picture business is as good as that in the provision business or the railroad business, but the Federal Government finds it necessary to censor beef and railroad literature, why not the motion-picture output, also, especially as the peril is in this case not to our pockets or our stomachs but to the characters of our young peoplethe Nation's hope? We read in one of the pamphlets of the national board of censorship that the motion-picture interest is “one branch

« PreviousContinue »