By David Coursey, AnchorDesk
Wish you could watch major films at home without being offended by words you wouldn't use in your own home, and worrying whether your children are seeing things they shouldn't?
Think you should have the right to view the movies you own (or rent) the way you--and not the content's creators--wish?
IN EITHER CASE, you should know about a company that hopes to market a special DVD player that will automatically skip over violent and sexually explicit scenes and mute the bad language that is so prevalent in Hollywood blockbusters.
Here's the problem: Hollywood is suing to keep this DVD player off the market. The major studios and the Directors Guild of America are essentially saying that, when you buy a DVD, you must watch it exactly the way it was created--or not watch it at all.
The company that's created this DVD technology, ClearPlay, is one of a dozen or so businesses that, in one way or another, offer cleaned-up versions of PG- and R-rated movies. Others, such as CleanFlicks, rent and sell DVDs and videotapes that have been physically edited to exclude objectionable content.
According to CEO Bill Aho (whom I interviewed yesterday on my radio show), ClearPlay uses special software--already available for PC-based DVD players--to skip over specific scenes and mute language while the disc is being played. ClearPlay editors have viewed and created filters for more than 300 films, from A.I. Artificial Intelligence to Zoolander. Aho admits that there are some movies (such as Saving Private Ryan) that ClearPlay hasn't filtered because doing so would ruin the film. The filters are specific enough that even a gritty war drama like Blackhawk Down might lose just three or four minutes of run time.
The ClearPlay service is available right now (if you're willing to use your PC as your DVD player) for $7.95 a month, or $79 a year. The custom DVD player, expected to sell for less that $100, will come to market later this year--unless it's blocked by the courts.
ClearPlay, CleanFlicks, and other similar companies are presently locked in legal battles with the entertainment industry, which claims that copyright owners alone have the right to make "derivative works" by editing the originals. If anyone else creates derivative works, the studios and their allies argue, that would violate the studio's trademark rights to a motion picture.
I CAN OFFER only three words to Hollywood: Get over it. Or maybe: Turn it around. If people find certain scenes in certain movies offensive, maybe Hollywood shouldn't force its paying customers to watch those scenes.
I understand that editing can sometimes change the "meaning" of a motion picture--but so what? This is supposed to be entertainment, and people shouldn't be forced to be offended when they want to be entertained.
Furthermore, if a company like ClearPlay has found a viable market in letting consumers clean up movies on the fly, maybe Hollywood needs to sell DVDs already edited to something closer to a G or PG rating.
Hollywood is no stranger to editing films to reduce violence or drop offensive language. The TV networks have long required this (though less and less as time goes by), and directors often reedit their films in order to get a desired rating for showing in theaters.
From a legal standpoint, there is probably some difference between what CleanFlicks does, which is actually editing the content, and ClearPlay's approach, which leaves the content intact but automates the fast-forward and mute features that individual users could invoke with their remotes, if only they knew when.
THIS IS AN IMPORTANT case and not just because of CleanFlicks and ClearPlay. This is about what consumers can do in their own homes. It has parallels to the controversy over digital video recorders that let you skip through commercials.
I'm not immune to the concerns of the studios and directors. CleanFlicks may actually cross the legal line by creating a new version of a film. As a writer, I hate it when even a word in my column is changed without my consent. (Regardless of how badly it needs to be changed, I might add).
But I'm more concerned about the individual rights of consumers and families to do what they like with the content they buy, so long as they don't sell it for a profit. If people want to see cleaned-up movies, they should certainly have that right. Shame on Hollywood for trying to take it away.
Should you be able to use software (or hardware) that skips over scenes and language you don't want to see or hear in the DVDs you own or rent?
Yes! It's my content; I should be able to use it the way I want. 13881 (82%)
No! I don't want to violate the copyright. 3137 (18%)