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Cinemanow or Cinema-no

In the same way upstart Napster forced music companies to begin taking a hard look at legally offering their artists’ works online, movie pirates are forcing the hands of major studios to consider the same plan.

“Cinemanow.com is poised to be a replacement for your local Blockbuster.”

Over the past couple of months, news reports have indicated many major studios are signing up with online video delivery companies to allow the point-and-click generation a supposedly even more convenient way to bring cinema into their homes (assuming your computer sits near your television). Of these pioneers in home video distribution, Cinemanow.com is one of the largest and most aggressive in signing up both suppliers and consumers of movies.

According to a June 13, 2006 article in Forbes, mainstream studios like MGM, Sony, Fox and Disney have all come on board and Paramount is likely next to follow suit. Family oriented movies like Cheaper by the Dozen, Chicken Little, and Glory Road are being mentioned in this and other news articles as being available on the new service, so I thought a visit to Cinemanow.com would be worthwhile.

Unfortunately, my first impression went from poor to concerning in a matter of minutes.

Cinemanow.com's home page immediately offers me an opportunity to join the service, or take a sampling with a week of free movies. I push the big GET STARTED button, and am directed to a page that has a selection of free movies with box covers that look like the type of titles you'd find in one of those dusty corner video stores. Many of them are "unrated," and feature pictures of people in sensual poses, and plot lines talking of "gorgeous babes," themes of "bisexuality" and characters with an "appetite for sex."

Obviously, these films wouldn't be appropriate for children, and with an assurance in the site's "Top 10 Questions" that parents can control what content their children see, I clicked on one of the movie's "watch" links, expecting to be asked for my name, address, and credit card number.

Unfortunately, this is one case where free really means free.

I was directed to a detail page for the movie, and another "watch" button. Moments later, a viewer had opened and the movie was playing. I could even select a "fullscreen" button to take advantage of my high-speed connection. The technical quality was surprisingly good, but I was amazed at how easy it was to view content that is highly unlikely to be appropriate for a child looking for the latest Disney movie.

Yet, the problem becomes even worse when I click on the "Mature Content" link on the left side of the page where many different genres are indexed. Again, I'm expecting a gatekeeper page requiring a credit card number in an attempt to verify my adult status. Instead, a page pops asking me if I'm over 18 years of age. Another click on the confirmation button and I end up with a wide selection of pornographic "box covers" offering me a chance to view whatever I want from leading porn purveyors like Hustler and Vivid.

Clicking on one of these boxes, I am offered an opportunity to buy viewing time in blocks of minutes, including a 10 minute free sample. Finally, after selecting the free option, I'm requested to enter a credit card. But upon backing out of this page, I notice another link that offers Podcasts. Clicking that button gives me a "drag and drop" opportunity to sample some of Vivid's "girls." A quick flick of the mouse, and my iTunes player is downloading a huge list of highly explicit pornographic video clips.

Remember, at no time was I asked to do anything other than agree that I am over 18... hardly an effective way to keep children and teens from going further. I accessed all this content by simply visiting the website. No registration was necessary.

Of course there are thousands of porn sites on the Internet that offer similar content, but what makes this situation so serious is the way this new company is being promoted. Cinemanow.com is poised to be a replacement for your local Blockbuster, and in many news articles, is promoting the availability of popular G and PG rated movies. Yet, with a few clicks, kids coming to see Cheaper by the Dozen can access pure porn thorough a Podcast, and sensuous "unrated films" directly on screen. (It's also important to know that Cinemanow.com's subscription plans, which are required to view the popular movies being cited in news articles, include direct viewing of their pornographic titles as part of the package.)

There is a small link at the bottom of the page offering "parental controls," but the irony is I have to sign up for a subscription in order to access this feature.

Parents, with the publicity Cinemanow.com is receiving, you may want to make sure it is on your "black list" of sites if you use an Internet filtering system. Until this company can create a better model for marketing the latest children's movies, Cinemanow would be better described as Cinema-NO!

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