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Movie Sanitizer Seeks Dismissal From Suit

6 Jan, 2003 By: Holly J. Wagner


Software that skips past objectionable language or scenes in movies on DVD is protected under fair use, first sale and a variety of other copyright exemptions, one of the services under fire from the Director's Guild of America (DGA) and the studios alleges in a counterclaim.

“Counterclaimants have no legal right to dictate all aspects of a consumer's experience of their works,” the filing reads. “Patrons of movie theaters have the right to leave a theater briefly to obtain popcorn during a motion picture's theatrical exhibition. Similarly, consumers have the right to mute, skip pause, stop or fast forward motion picture DVDs played in the privacy of their homes.”

The counterclaim on behalf of ClearPlay Inc. contends that since its service is a device that reads studio-produced discs at the consumer's command without altering the disc or its content, the studios and guilds have no legal claim.

Neither ClearPlay nor the consumers that use it make any sort of copies or derivative works using ClearPlay software and ClearPlay does not rent, sell or provide video content, the company asserted in court papers.

“ClearPlay's software products cannot be substituted for [studios'] motion picture DVDs…but are designed to be used in conjunction with genuine, intact and unaltered motion pictures,” the claim states, adding that far from competing with studio movies, ClearPlay's software depends on them.

ClearPlay's counterclaim also accuses the studios and DGA of interfering with its business, including plans to license its technology to hardware manufacturers.

The claims stem from a dispute in which the major studios and several directors seek to shut down video masking services.

Initially another service, CleanFlicks, sought a court order declaring its business legal in what it hoped would be a preemptive strike. A few weeks later, the DGA countersued CleanFlicks and any other service the guild could find that helps consumers mask sex, violence or foul language out of features films video.

The services fall into two primary categories: those that physically edit studio product and rent it to customers or “co-op members;” and those like ClearPlay, that provide some type of software-based intervention between the DVD player and TV set, leaving the disc unchanged.

“A consumer using a remote control, a DVD player and a television privately at home to skip, mute and fast forward portions of motion pictures on DVD does not, on that basis alone, infringe upon any copyrights in motion pictures,” ClearPlay's claim states.

The company has requested a speedy hearing date and seeks to be dismissed from the lawsuit with a declaration that its business does not violate copyright or constitutional law.


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