Now everybody gets to be a censor — er, editor!

In July, a court ruled that companies which sell censored DVDs without authorization, such as CleanFlicks and CleanFilms, must turn over their inventories to the studios whose copyrights they were infringing. Both firms have since shut down entirely.

But one company escaped censure. That company was ClearPlay, which does not edit DVDs but, rather, sells a DVD player which can censor movies as it plays them. Instead of selling edited DVDs, they sell filtering software for specific titles — and you can set the filters separately, so if, say, language bothers you and nudity does not, or vice versa, you can censor one and not the other.

The key point here is that ClearPlay is not making illegal copies of the DVD themselves — indeed, in order to take proper advantage of this technology, the viewer would have to buy or rent the original DVD for themselves, and that should benefit the studios, right? It’s pretty much the same rationale that allows people to record their own audio commentaries and post them online.

But why should you have to turn to a bunch of anonymous editors at some corporation to censor your DVDs? The short answer is, you don’t — at least, not any more. Today, Studio Briefing reported that a firm called Cuts Inc. has arranged a way for you to censor your movies yourself — and to share the results with others!

San Francisco-based Cuts Inc. has unveiled a software product, which it is offering free, that will allow individuals to censor their own movies “legally.” In a statement, the company said, “With the Cuts Player and Cuts’ online Directory service, users can post their own edits, as well as navigate through a variety of categories and lists of popular Cuts made by others.” What makes the system legal, the company claims, “is that the edits people make never alter the original video. Instead, Cuts generates a set of instructions, called ‘Cutlists’, which implement the edits on the fly any time the video is played back with the Cuts Player software. Viewers must have the original video in order to view the edited version.”

In other words, questions of morality and family appropriateness are now completely secondary, and making “clean” versions of favorite films is now just one re-editing option among many.

If you want to cut an R-rated film down to PG, you can do that; but at the same time, you can also re-edit, say, the Star Wars prequels or Basic Instinct to cut out the boring dramatic bits and thereby focus more on the “good parts”, whether violent or sexual.

Certainly the two companies seem to be pursuing entirely different demographics, with entirely different sensibilities. Just compare the main graphic at the ClearPlay website …

… with the main graphic at the Cuts Inc. website:

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  • It’s all beginning to look a lot like Connie Willis’s novel _Remake_.

    Can we filter out snowboarding elves? (no, I’m still not over Helm’s Deep)

  • I had forgotten them, unitl now. Thanks Mat.D, I am cringing at the memory.