SOUTH SALT LAKE Even though ClearPlay is the last company standing after a recent Hollywood legal war concluded early in July, the company's chief executive officer, Bill Aho, still feels a sense of loss.
"While it may be good for ClearPlay, it's bad for parents," Aho said of the July 6 decision by a U.S. district judge who ruled that cutting "objectionable content" from films violates federal copyright law.
The court decision ended a three-year court battle between CleanFlicks and other video stores that edit "objectional content" in movies and 16 Hollywood directors, including Steven Spielberg and Robert Redford, and several entertainment studios including Disney.
In his decision, Judge Richard P. Matsch wrote that the video stores' actions compromised the artistic expression in the movies and violated copyright laws. As a result of the ruling, the video stores have taken their edited movies off the shelves. Some companies announced they will close their doors.
As the competition clears the field, Aho wishes the courts would allow the companies to continue their services.
"Moms and dads need all the help they can get to protect their kids," he said, "And these companies were providing a valuable service."
ClearPlay wasn't included in this round of copyright battles, but it has faced its share of courtroom struggles, Aho said. In 2002, a group of directors and motion-picture studios targeted ClearPlay and 14 other companies over copyright issues. But President Bush signed a law last April known as the 2005 Family Movie Act, which protected ClearPlay's right to filter sex scenes, violence and foul language from movies.
Now that the measure clarifies the legality of ClearPlay's business practices, Aho doesn't expect any more trouble from the Directors' Guild of America or motion-picture studios.
"I don't think they have the stomach for another round," he said.
Matt Jarman, inventor of the ClearPlay technology, said the company differs from CleanFlicks and CleanFilms because ClearPlay offers customers the ability to decide what they want to filter out of a movie, instead of merely altering the videos and then re-selling them in edited form.
"The point is to give the customers options," he said.
In a back room at ClearPlay's headquarters, Jarman and a handful of employees peruse each newly released movie, categorizing possibly offensive content into 14 different filter settings, including categories for violence, sex and nudity, language, and drug use. The settings and categories for that particular movie are stored in the company library with about 2,000 other movies. Customers can download the movie settings to their DVD player via the Internet for a monthly membership fee.
Before they watch the movie, customers can select which content they want to filter. The DVD is never physically altered during the process, Jarman said. Moreover, with all the options of what to filter and what not to filter, customers have approximately 16,000 options on what to filter in the same movie, he said."Hollywood's message has always been, 'It's up to the parents to decide,' " Jarman said. "So let's well-equip the parents."