browsing through the library collection of DVD’s at the Carnegie Library
of Pittsburgh, I decided to look at some of the movie’s MPAA rating.
Most movies MPAA rating falls under these categories:
utter shock, I found out that children can borrow restricted movies from
the Carnegie Library without being accompanied by a parent or adult
guardian. These ratings are meant to be advisory in nature to help
parents/guardians to make the right decision in deciding what movies
their children can watch.
library does not have any rule or regulations that prevent children from
getting these ‘R’ movies some of which have language, violence, nudity,
gore, sexuality, etc.
Libraries are supposed to be a safe place for children where they can go
and get books, magazines, videos, DVD’s etc without having to have
access to restricted material. This is not the case however.
at one of the libraries told me that libraries are all about freedom and
they do not restrict any movies to anyone with an adult library card. On
the surface that sounds reasonable except the libraries definition of an
adult is not the same as the court’s definition of an adult of legal
age. The courts definition is anyone 18 or older is given adult status.
The libraries definition is anyone 14 or older is given adult status for
a library card.
means any child that is between the ages of 14 – 17 will be treated as
an adult when it comes to borrowing material. It does not matter if they
want to borrow ‘R’ rated movies with language, violence, nudity, gore,
sexuality, etc because in the eyes of the library, they have an adult
how the library decided to give children between the ages of 14 – 17, an
adult library card is not known but that should not have ever happened
because of the situations the libraries face now.
they cannot stop children who want to borrow R-rated material unless
they change their regulations when it comes to borrowing movies. They
should change their regulations to anyone 18 or above to borrow restricted movies.
rental businesses and theaters care enough to restrict those under 17
from borrowing or viewing an R-rated movie without an accompanying
parent or guardian even though they lose that sale. Even cable companies
have parental control features that allow parents to block ‘R’ rated
material on their television sets.
library allows children to borrow those same materials that a rental
business would have turned them down from borrowing. This is not right!
library is free to the public but that does not mean the library should
have the freedom to allow any material from entering the hands of
classic argument has been that it is the responsibility of the parent to
make sure their child knows what they can and cannot borrow and not up
to the libraries to regulate that material.
I beg to
differ! In this age of videos and DVD’s that have content that even some
adults shudder at, these libraries have a duty to protect children that
come under their wing.
a reason that the courts have ruled 18 to be the age of an adult. Until
then parents/guardians are responsible for the well being of their
children. Lot of people do not like to be considered a child if they are
between the ages of 14 – 17 but in the eyes of the court they are.
Because they are children they cannot engage in certain acts that would
be legal for adults to engage in but the library allows them to borrow
restricted material! This is wrong!
look at what minors under the age of 18 are prohibited from engaging in
Pennsylvania (PA) and compare that to allowing minors to have an adult library card
between the ages of 14 – 17.
comes to the list below, minors do not have many rights accorded to
adults of 18 or over according to Pennsylvania law.
PA prohibits unemancipated youth under the age of 18 from obtaining an
abortion without either parental consent or a judicial bypass. (18 Pa.
Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3206)
In PA, the age of majority for most civil purposes is 21. (1 Pa. Cons.
Stat. Ann. § 1991; (23 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5101)
– PA prohibits the purchase of alcohol by, or the sale of alcohol to,
youth under the age of 21. (18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6308)
Cigarettes - PA prohibits either
the possession or purchase of cigarettes by youth under the age of 18.
(18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6305)
In PA, the contract rights of youth under age 18 are restricted and/or
infancy of the obligor is a defense to the enforcement of a simple
contract. (13 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 3305 (infancy is a defense), 23 Pa.
Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5101)
– In PA, a youth must be 18 years of age or older to be issued a
driver's license free of restrictions or prerequisites. (75 Pa. Cons.
Stat. § 1503)
In PA, under Federal law, youth under the age of 18 cannot possess a
handgun or handgun ammunition. (18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6302)
Foreign Travel – Youth under the
age of 18 cannot obtain a passport for foreign travel if the custodial
parent objects. (22 C.F.R. § 51.27).
- In PA, youth under the age of 18 are prohibited from participating in
certain forms of
– PA prohibits youth under the age of 18 from purchasing lottery
tickets. (Stat. Ann. tit. 72, § 3761-309)
– PA prohibits youth under the age of 18 from participating in bingo
games, or only allows youth under the age of 18 to participate if a
parent consents. (Stat. Ann. tit 10, § 305)
– PA prohibits youth under the age of 18 from engaging in pari-mutuel
betting. (4 Pa. Const. Stat. Ann. § 325.228)
– PA prohibits youth under the age of 18 from serving on juries. (42 Pa.
Const. Stat. Ann. § 4502)
– PA prohibits the number of hours per day or hours per week that youth
under the age of 18 may work in non-farm
- PA absolutely prohibits youth under the age of 18 from marrying, or
only allows marriage with parental consent. (23 Pa. Cons. Stat. § 1304)
- Federal law prohibits youth under the age of 18 from enlisting in the
Regular Army, Regular Marine Corps, Regular Air Force, Regular Navy, or
Regular Coast Guard without the written consent of the youth's parent or
guardian. (10 U.S.C.A. § 505). Youth under the age of 18 cannot be
drafted. (50 App. U.S.C.A. § 454).
– In PA, youth under the age of 18 are prohibited from engaging in
transactions with pawnbrokers. (63 Pa. Const. Stat. § 281-29)
– PA prohibits the sale or delivery of ‘material that is obscene or
harmful to minors’ to youth under the age of 18, or only allows sale or
delivery if a youth's parent consents. (18 Pa. Cons. Stat. Ann. § 5903)
– PA prohibits youth under the age of 18 from obtaining a tattoo, or
only allows a youth to obtain a tattoo if a parent consents. (18 Pa.
Cons. Stat. Ann. § 6311)
- In PA, youth under the age of 18 are prohibited from voting. (Stat.
Ann. tit. 25, § 2811)
– In PA, youth under the age of 18 cannot make a valid will. (20 Pa.
Cons. Stat. Ann. § 2501)
– PA makes school attendance compulsory for minors within
statutorily-set age ranges. (24
Pa. Cons. Stat.
§ 13-1327 (ages 8-17))
these facts obtained from the Juvenile Law Center, there are 22 things
minors are prohibited from engaging in PA because they are not an adult
and the state has issues with minors engaging in them.
libraries think they have the right and power to let children between
the ages of 14 – 17 have an adult library card and engage in
transactions adults may engage in the library.
There is something
definitely wrong with this picture when minors are allowed to borrow
material that would be restricted if borrowed or viewed from any other
who support the libraries right to allow minors to borrow certain
material will argue in the name of freedom. But, freedom is not a free
pass to engage in acts that are prohibited. The Constitution is for
freedom but also to uphold the law. There is a reason minors do not have
the same rights as adults.
According to the article written by Vikram David Amar and Alan
Brownstein, “The answer courts have given is that because children lack
the maturity to make wise judgments, their autonomy deserves less
respect from the state than does the autonomy of adults. While
paternalistic state regulations are correctly viewed as demeaning when
applied to adults, they are considered appropriate, if not necessary,
for children.” (http://practice.findlaw.com/cyberlaw-0504.html)
lack the maturity to make wise judgments at an age less than 18
according to the courts but the library allows them access to restricted
material from their media collection of VHS and DVD’s. I believe this is
not in the best interests of the children,
Ginsberg v. New
York, the Court upheld a law prohibiting the sale of
sexually graphic material that was deemed harmful to persons under the
age of seventeen.
Ironically, right after the Supreme Courts decision, few months later the MPAA ratings went into effect
court also ruled, “The State has power to adjust the definition of
obscenity as applied to minors, for even where there is an invasion of
protected freedoms "the power of the state to control the conduct of
children reaches beyond the scope of its authority over adults." (Prince
321 U.S. 158, 170
recent Court cases, it is clear the goal of preventing children from
obtaining expressive materials that might be harmful to them is a
compelling state interest. Some R-rated movies fall under that category.
United States v.
American Library Ass'n, 123 S. Ct. 2297 (2003), the recent case
considering a challenge to the Children's Internet Protection Act (CIPA),
the Supreme Court plainly upheld CIPA stating it was not
unconstitutional for expecting libraries to have a filtering software
system that protects minors from expressive materials.
this in mind, the state should be aware of libraries that allow
expressive materials to be checked out by children under the age of 17.
There are no safeguards for those between the ages of 14-17 but that
should change. We can take the CIPA case as precedent to protect the
morals of minors from being corrupted.
According to Title 18, Section 5903 of the Pennsylvania
Consolidated Statutes, a criminal code section dealing with obscenity,
it is illegal what the library is doing for the law states in section
(c) and (c) (1)
(c) No person shall knowingly disseminate by sale,
loan or otherwise explicit sexual materials to a minor. "Explicit sexual
materials," as used in this subsection, means materials which are
(c)(1) any picture, photograph, drawing, sculpture,
motion picture film, video tape or similar visual representation or
image of a person or portion of the human body which depicts nudity,
sexual conduct, or sadomasochistic abuse and which is harmful to minors.
specifically mentions MOTION PICTURE FILM, VIDEO TAPE OR SIMILAR VISUAL
means a librarian or check out person shall not knowingly disseminate by
loan to a minor any picture, motion picture film, video tape or similar
visual representation [DVD’s] or image of a person or portion of the
human body which depicts nudity, sexual conduct, or sadomasochistic
abuse which is harmful to minors.
the library in the name of freedom is knowingly allowing minors between
the ages of 14 -17 who have a library card borrow movies or DVD”s that
have scenes unsuitable for minors to watch and corrupts the morals of a
library should stop this action because it is illegal and for the
protection of the children.
are ways it can be done without undue hardship to the library and I pray
that you will join me in this crusade to prevent the corruption of the
morals of a minor, remembering the state considers even 14 – 17 year olds
are alternate actions the library can implement to protect children from
borrowing restrictive material:
someone wants to take out on loan a VHS or DVD movie, the check out
person should see what the advisory MPAA rating of the movie is. If the
MPAA rating is ‘R or above, they should ask for proof of age. If their
age is below 18, they should not loan it to them in line with state law.
someone tries to borrow a restrictive movie, a flag should appear on the
computer screen to notify that the person is borrowing a restrictive
movie so an ID check can be made. If their age is below 18, they should
not loan it to them in line with state law.
Rather than giving an adult card to those between the ages of 14 - 17, an adult
card should be given to those 18 or above so they alone can borrow
restrictive material if they choose to.
separate cards should be available one for books and one for media
loans with safeguards.
are not hard things to ask and implement for the sake of the children.
May we protect the children and not worry whether we are infringing on
their freedom. Courts have ruled that the welfare of the child and their
protection is more important than their access to certain rights!
hope to see the Carnegie library and all libraries do right for the
children. If the state believed that parents alone have the duty to
protect their children then the state would not take a compelling
interest for the welfare of children but they do and so do I!