Strange bedfellows

There’s been a lot of talk about the DVD filtering bill on various copyright/law sites, but what I find most interesting is watching reactions to it outside of the tech law realm. It turns a lot of traditionally friend and foe relationships on their heads.

It all started with CleanFlicks, which rents and sells what are essentially derivative works, movies clean enough that they could be played on an airplane. There are obvious legal issues when they resell and rent modified works, and Hollywood directors were not happy. Then came ClearPlay, a DVD player that takes regular DVDs and has essentially a text file associated with movies, telling it what to skip when you play them. Like CleanFlicks, but in a device. This one skirts most legal issues because it’s a box running in your private home, on your own DVDs that are unaltered. But still, some Hollywood folks disliked the idea of it and this bill passed through congress to protect them.

The best part for me personally is watching where people fall on the issue when they discuss it online. A lot of folks fed up with the rise of religious influence in this country have a knee-jerk reaction against the bill, due to the backers. A lot of artistic types are also reacting against the bill and these services because it doesn’t consider the original artists’ work and how it was meant to be displayed.

Personally, I’m happy to see it, and not because I’d ever use a device or service like this, but for the sake of the law surrounding technology and art. In a way, President Bush just signed a law making derivative works legal and home hacking projects OK for sale to others. There’s not much of a difference in the abstract between a DVD player that skips scenes and creates a new movie and a XBOX that can be turned into a web browsing, weather reporting, movie and music jukebox. Selling a copy of a DVD with scenes removed and language tweaked by an outside company unrelated to a movie studio has obvious parallels with DJ Dangermouse making the Grey Album.

To further complicate matters, the bill also upped the crimes of taping a movie in a theater and pre-releases of music and films online, but it also allowed Orphaned Works to survive.

There’s a lot of good and bad in this bill, but I look forward to seeing what can come from it, in the realm of sampling and hacking.

3 Comments

  • Has anyone come up with the opposite of CleanPlay, which would allow you to skip the boring parts and just show the sex, violence and bad language? ;)

  • Well, I have seen some a video sold on TV that was just nothing but sex scenes from popular movies. They market it as “the best parts” but it creeped me out to think of guys getting off by watching scenes pulled out context from movies. Not all the nude scenes seemed to be from slapstick R-rated comedy, some of it was from serious film.
    Still, not something that should be illegal, provided the video producers cleared the rights to resell all those scenes. Creepy though.

  • I routinely use DVDShrink to pull a copy of a DVD that I own and edit content for my family. My son is five and there are some scenes that I think are too violent or risque for him to watch in an otherwise acceptable movie. The operating room scene in Spider-Man 2 is one – I just edited out that scene and then burned a new DVD that he can watch.
    It is nice that there is a bill/law making it legal, but I wouldn’t stop if there wasn’t a bill like that.

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