The Self-Censoring DVD Player

RCA, a Thomson brand, have launched a DVD player that can be programmed to skip content that viewers find unsuitable. The US$80 (€68) player contains software from ClearPlay that checks the inserted DVD against a database of titles and skips sections that may offend, based on a selection of filters. Because of this the player can only “protect” viewers from films it already knows about.

The player comes preinstalled with 100 filters for films such as Daredevil and Pirates of the Caribbean. Owners of the player can pay US$5 (€4.22) per month to receive internet updates, which they simply burn to a CD from their computer and then feed to the DVD player. So it looks like protecting the peoples’ moral sensibilities is a revenue stream in itself.

ClearPlay’s database currently contains filters for 500 popular films. ClearPlay, based in Salt Lake City, allow viewers to filter on four categories: violence, sex and nudity, language and (the intriguingly named) “other”. That’ll be drugs then. When a scene comes up that hits one of the filters, bad language is muted or the scene itself is skipped.

Studios don’t like the idea of a player that edits their films: “ClearPlay software edits movies to conform to ClearPlay’s vision of a movie instead of letting audiences see, and judge for themselves, what writers wrote, what actors said and what directors envisioned,” The Directors Guild of America said in a statement. “Ultimately, it is a violation of law and just wrong to profit from selling software that changes the intent of movies you didn’t create and don’t own.”

Apart from impending action because of this latest product, ClearPlay are currently being prosecuted in association with a video rental outfit in Colorado, “Clean Flicks” for editing films and then burning them back to DVD.

The censoring DVD player is an interesting and scary idea – and since it’s optional, then it only allows viewer’s to do what they’ve always done when watching films, skip the bits they find uncomforatble or inappropriate. In fact, I covered my eyes and stuck my fingers in my ears several times during Moulin Rouge, as it was so offensive.

The ClearPlay user-managed filter is a far better option than allowing regulators and broadcasters to censor films for viewers without consultation.

…though Channel 4’s “melon farmer” edit of Robocop should go down as a modern classic.


“Fun you – melonfarmer!”

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Fraser Lovatt

Fraser Lovatt has spent the last fifteen years working in publishing, TV and the Internet in various capacities, and believes that they will be seperate platforms for at least a while yet. His main interests at the moment are exploring where Linux is taking home entertainment and how technology is conferring technical skills on more and more people. Fraser Lovatt was born in the same year that 2001: A Space Odyssey was delighting and confusing people in the cinemas, and developed a lifelong love of technology as soon as he realised that things could be taken apart, sometimes put back together again, but mostly left in bits or made into something the original designer hadn't quite planned upon. At school he was definitely in the ZX Spectrum/Magpie/BMX camp, rather than the BBC Micro/Blue Peter/well-behaved group. This is all deeply ironic as he later went on to spend nine years working at the BBC. After a few years of working as a bookseller in Scotland, ("Back when it was actually a skilled profession" he'll tell anyone still listening), he moved to England for reasons he can't quite explain adequately to himself. After a couple of publishing jobs punctuated by sporadic bursts of travelling and photography came the aforementioned nine years at the BBC where he specialised in internet technologies and video. These days his primary interests are Java, Linux, videogames and pies - and if they're not candidates for convergence, then what is?