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. 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?
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.