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Provo company creates program that filters online content

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 20 2014 11:55 p.m. MDT

Daniel Harmon is a co-founder of VidAngel. It's a service that allows users to stream movies without content they don't want to see or hear, such as swear words, gore and sexual content.

Winston Armani, Deseret News

PROVO — People don't have to go to a movie theater anymore. They can stream films right into their homes.

In a few years, it's expected that streaming movies will outpace those that are watched in theatres or on DVDs.

A Utah Country company has found an opportunity to help viewers who want to make sure the scenes they see are suitable for the entire family.

According to VidAngel, the first swear word in a movie was spoken by Clark Gable in “Gone with the Wind” when he said, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Since then, the content and language in some movies has certainly gotten more graphic. In fact, a recent examination of nearly 1,000 movies shows the average number of swear words per film is 50.

VidAngel conducted that survey and has created Web application that allows viewers of streamed movies and videos to filter scenes they don't want to see.

“VidAngel is streaming movies minus the bosoms, blood and bad words,” said Daniel Harmon, co-founder of VidAngel.

It works as a Chrome extension, a one-click install available on vidangel.com, and then people are set up, Harmon said.

When people rent a movie through an online service, they will see a menu with the headings: "Language, sexual content, graphic violence" and the like.

“And then you can come in here and say, ‘I really don't want to hear the f-word. I don't want to hear the Lord's name in vain. I don't want to hear this,'" said Jeff Harmon, VidAngel co-founder.

People can filter as much or as little as they want.

“VidAngel will recognize when there's a swear word and mute it, or where there's a sex scene and just skip it, or graphic violence or anything like that,” Daniel Harmon said.

Depending on the things the user choses to mute or skip, the user may get warnings that some of the settings could affect storylines.

Copyright laws prohibit unauthorized altering and then copying movies and software. But a law passed in 2005, based on a Salt Lake case, does allow for technology that "sanitizes" portions for personal viewing.

“There's no copying and burning. There's no altering of the original film,” Daniel Harmon said. “This is legal in the sense that it follows the Family Copyright and Protection Act of 2005 that gives families the ability to alter minimal portions of the film."

Jeff Harmon thinks of it as a "powerful remote".

"So that I don't have to cover up my kids' eyes, or cover my teenager’s eyes or quickly skip a scene, it just does that for me, and I never have to worry about it,” Jeff Harmon said.

It can be set up once, or people can make changes to their preferences depending on what movie they’re watching or who they’re watching it with.

VidAngel, a startup company with about six employees, just launched the service a couple of weeks ago and has about 15,000 users. For now, the free service is only usable on the Google Chrome browser, but the company plans to make it available on other platforms and devices in the future.

“For me it's a big deal because it opens up a way for me to watch some content that I wouldn't normally watch,” Daniel Harmon said. “I wouldn't be comfortable showing my family. Now I can show my kids something."

Email: kmccord@deseretnews.com

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