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An Indiana county prosecutor has sent letters to a dozen or so retail stores with Redbox kiosks demanding that R-rated titles be removed from the boxes.
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Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Stanley Levco, apparently at the urging of one or more owners of traditional video stores, is threatening the retailers with criminal charges if the restricted titles are not removed.

Redbox, whose kiosks require renters to affirm their age before renting restricted titles, justified its position with the following statement:

“When it comes to regulating consumers’ access to content, well-defined constitutional protections are in place . . . The courts have uniformly ruled that attempts to restrict movie rentals based upon MPAA ratings — like ‘PG-13’ or ‘R’ — violate the First Amendment.”

Paul Black, an attorney who represents “a client who operates several video store locations”, suggested to Levco’s office that the inquiry take place. Says Black:

“I’m not on a crusade . . . We’re just looking for a level playing field here.”

Jon Engen, marketing manager for Video Buyers Group (VBG), also says that his organization has “been in contact” with Levco regarding this issue. This is not the first time VBG’s name has been connected to a controversy involving Redbox and R-rated titles. Then, as now, questions about the motive behind VBG’s involvement hang heavy in the air.

Traditional brick-and-mortar video stores claim that they provide an extra layer of protection for minors over kiosks by requiring that customers who rent R-rated films show their I.D. to a clerk.

Over to you, Insiders. Where do First Amendment rights and parental responsibilities meet? Should restricted content be removed altogether from rental kiosks? If such a thing were to happen, where would the line on censorship and free speech be drawn?

3/5/10 UPDATE

Levco held a press conference on Friday morning in which he announced that he will not pursue charges against Redbox or other kiosk owners. Levco stated that he anticipated that such a course of action would result in a non-favorable verdict and would be a waste of resources.
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(via IndyStar)

20 Responses to “Indiana Prosecutor Wants to Take the “R” Out of Redbox **UPDATED**”

  1. Visitor [Join Now]
    Vernon Dent [visitor]

    Unfortunately, Vanderburgh County has a case here under the “community standards doctrine”. The County’s attorneys are going to argue that DVD kiosks are like cigarette vending machines, and enforcing age requirements are almost impossible.

    Secondly, minors technically have few if any First Amendment rights, so the defendant’s legal argument, is again, very limited.

    Perhaps DVD kiosks will have to be located in “red” light, or for that matter, “blue” light districts [pun intended] in geographic areas where access issues exist.

  2. Visitor [Join Now]
    Firstlawofnature [visitor]

    I assume credit cards are generally issued to adults and not kids. Yes kids can take them from their parents but this isn’t a machine that dispenses to anyone with cash. Note the irony of independent renters criticizing Redbox for R ratings movies when many of them carry hard core to make ends meet. Nothing against porn but Redbox is the outlet with higher standards in this case.

    • Visitor [Join Now]
      Jake [visitor]

      I believe, (though I’m not 100% certain) that the possession of a credit card is considered good enough to use as age verification for admission into XXX websites. I fail to understand how Redbox kiosks should be any different. I think the real inquiry here should be into the action of Vanderburgh County Prosecutor Stanley Levco. If you live in Vanderburgh county, might I suggest you write your congressperson and ask them to look into it. Local video stores should not be abusing the county prosecutor office in order to protect their business model.

      • Visitor [Join Now]
        Adam [visitor]

        Kids can have access to anything that requires someone to have a credit card. All they need is a Visa or Mastercard debit card.

  3. Visitor [Join Now]
    tinybrat [visitor]

    This is just so stupid. Really, nothing better to do in the legal system? All because a few rental stores can’t compete with redbox so they want to try and sue them? Thats funny. How about suing the credit card issuers who give kids cards?

    • Visitor [Join Now]
      kittykat [visitor]

      Lots of parents give their kids credit cards that are in their name. For some reason parents today think that being their kids friends is more important than actual parenting.

  4. Visitor [Join Now]
    Infinion [visitor]

    I live in Vanderburgh County. Unfortunately, this is just the way Levco is. He’s always been known for this kind of silliness, but refusing to prosecute some violent or drug offenders for no apparent reason. He’s also well known for ‘Guilty until proven innocent’.

    “I’m not even going to consider making a decision for a couple weeks,” Levco said. “I’m telling them what they’re doing might be violating the law, giving them a chance to tell me why what they’re doing is not violating the law or remedying what I think is the violation.

    Then he said he’s going to send the Sheriff to make sure the movies in question have been removed. Classy.

    You can see the local newspaper’s article here.

  5. Member [Join Now]
    Cancun [cancun]

    This is BS.
    What about movies on-demand or all the adult stuff you can find in the web. Minors have a easier access to them.

    What’s this guy solution? That when we want a “R” movie we are forced to go to a store and get our movie in black bag?

    • Visitor [Join Now]
      John Small [visitor]

      He can’t control the internet but he can control what happens in his county.

      I don’t necessarily agree with it but I can certainly see where he is coming from on this issue.

    • Visitor [Join Now]
      Firstlawofnature [visitor]

      Yes elected officials can attempt to control aspects of life in the county but surely you would acknowledge that the greater good would not be served by removing all R & PG13 films from redbox & moviecube. The notion is quite ridiculous actually.

  6. Member [Join Now]
    ChadCronin [chadcronin]

    I fail to see how punishing adults by taking our movies away in an attempt to protect kids (who obviously are going out of their way to watch “adult” material if they finding a way to get credit/debit cards and have a place to watch it unsupervised) is an effective way of going about this “issue”. You can take away R-rated movies, but you can’t take away a minors curiousity or resourcefulness. They will just go online and see much more explicit content.

  7. Visitor [Join Now]
    Realistic [visitor]

    This is so silly and most probably a political move (I’m so glad I don’t live in such retrograde places). Protecting children? By limiting the availability of R-rated movies? Give me a break! The only thing this will do is bother adults who want to see movies that are perfectly fine (I just rented “The Hurt Locker” at RedBox). If kids want to see something “spicy”, the last thing they will want to do is snatch credit card and go get an R-rated DVD. If they can find a place with a DVD player/TV where they can watch it undisturbed, they can probably find an Internet-connected computer on which they can watch anything they like – for free! You don’t need a credit card to watch the most hardcore porn or any movie, often before it is even released in theaters.
    “Protection for minors”? Give me a break! It is the first-amendment rights of adults that would be violated if the content of video kiosks are censored. I wouldn’t be surprised if some commercial interests are the driving force behind these stupid legal threats.

  8. Visitor [Join Now]
    Infinion [visitor]

    This just in, apparently Levco has come to his senses.

    • Visitor [Join Now]
      John Small [visitor]

      Not surprising. He may have felt he was doing the right thing but there was no way he was going to win it if it went to court.

  9. Member [Join Now]

    Good thing he came to his senses. This plan is one of the dumbest things I have ever heard! It’s bad enough that unrated versions of movies are not in Redbox, but they usually have minor diffrences. In order for a kid to rent from Redbox at all, they need a credit card. How does the kid get a credit card? Their parents. Even if the kid has his or her own credit card, the parents check what’s billed on it.

    Is this dude from the state of Indiana or a county in a state called Indiana County?

    • Visitor [Join Now]
      Infinion [visitor]

      He’s from Vanderburgh County in Southeastern Indiana. The county seat here is Evansville, the third largest city in Indiana. I live and work there. If you want some laughs, just follow the local Evansville news, it’s all like this.

      • Member [Join Now]

        thanks. I used to live near Indianapolis, but it was only for 2 years when I was a toddler. Still, I’m a Colts and a Pacers (yes, to some degree, I’m a Pacers fan). That info was really random lol

  10. Visitor [Join Now]
    Guy Cantin [visitor]

    I agree with everything you posted in this entry, I’m a loyal follower so make sure you keep updating so often!

  11. Member [Join Now]

    Yes kids can find their way around anything including getting a hold of a credit card. And yes they can fake an I.D. The fact is that NOTHING can stop it. So why the hell don’t parents hold kids responsible for their actions? BUT hey….my kid has done it, but getting them to understand that responsibility for their actions sure helped. And it didn’t require throwing him against a wall like my ‘father’ did to me. I’ll be damned if some ass clown decides to take away my rights cuz some kid jacked a credit card. You should have taught him better. The amendments have been broken down by things much bigger than this. You going to be true to it or burn it?