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CleanFlicks (wikipedia.org)
51 points by known on Oct 31, 2019 | hide | past | favorite | 60 comments

This is going to be controversial, but I would say this is the sort of thing HN would be in favour of if it wasn't Mormons doing it:

- consumer-side voluntary filtering as an alternative to demanding censorship

- elastic approach to copyright

- technological solution to social problem that's also a neat hack ("customized DVD player with software running concurrently with the DVD playback to perform edits")

It does raise the question of how OK it is for people to construct a bubble from which they remove entire classes of people (I'm betting that queerness is very heavily edited, even in its least explicit forms).

> they remove entire classes of people

They remove themselves, voluntarily. I have a problem with censorship by Twitter or Facebook because of their near-monopoly status on social media, but I have no problem if some small company serves their small target audience with censorhip that they choose themselves.

It's two different things indeed. Still, I do have a problem if it is the religious sect censoring but I do not if it is a company offering that service to the religious, and customers choose to use it, but not because a religious leader said so. This is because religious leaders have too much power, easily becomes cultish, I'm really afraid of religions that are just ways to make money, I think it's unethical, and because religion can be like a drug, if you add censorship into the mix, it's too dangerous. Basically, don't put censorship into the hands of powerful entities, being it facebook, or religious leaders.

As a disclaimer, I'm a Christian, with a catholic upbringing. I like religions, I think it's an important part of human life, it's just that they can be very dangerous as well.

>don't put censorship into the hands of powerful entities, being it facebook, or religious leaders.

Umm, one of the core principles of religion is providing a framework for mortality. I'd say it's exactly within the scope of religion.

The practical implication of giving religious leaders "too much power" is a cost of religious freedom.

I meant "Mormons removing queer people from their media because they don't like the representation".

For a more international version of this, see Eurovision and the refusal of various Arab countries to broadcast the Israeli entries at all - which led to said Arab countries being excluded from it for refusal to comply with the rules.

It's within the rights of the Arabs to not broadcast, and within the rights of Eurovision to not allow them to participate.

Are you suggesting that we should force people to watch things they don't agree with?

That isn't exactly what you said, but seems to suggest it.

I agree that taking the movie, editing it, copying it, and selling it-- is and should be illegal. But other solutions like client side indices of what to skip or mute don't harm the producer and are not editing of the copyrighted material itself.

>I agree that taking the movie, editing it, copying it, and selling it-- is and should be illegal.

I don't see why it should be illegal at all. Assuming:

1) The original owner gets paid for each copy sold

2) End customers are clearly informed that the edited version has been edited.

> Are you suggesting that we should force people to watch things they don't agree with?

That is explicitly what I'm avoiding saying, because obviously that's an illiberal and unworkable idea. In fact, I'm not trying to mandate anything at all. Not every observation is a criticism, not every criticism is a threat.

Well said.

> Are you suggesting that we should force people to watch things they don't agree with? That isn't exactly what you said, but seems to suggest it.

It's more complicated than that.

The right not to listen to things you don't like applies equally to someone who doesn't listen to rap music because too much of it demeans women; and someone who doesn't listen to rap music because too much of it is by black people.

But if those two people announce those tastes in public, they should expect different responses for obvious reasons!

So why couldn’t a company create a social network to serve their own small group of people?

Would you want your creative work edited to say something you didn’t intend it to say and still have your name attached to it?

That's irrelevant. I'd argue, at a minimum, that this falls under fair use, if not by statue/regs, then by principle.

Obviously there's a process in place for when movies are edited for TV. More times than not, nowadays it's not even for censorship, but to cut down time so they can add more commercials. That's more of editing a work specifically for direct financial gain than what we're taking about here.

So the law as interpreted by the court is “irrelevant” but your interpretation of the “principal” is? There has never been a precedent saying that you could modify a work as you see fit and redistribute it.

Obviously there's a process in place for when movies are edited for TV.

Yes that “process” is that the copyright holder edits the content. Not some random third party.

1) It's irrelevant because First Sale Doctrine (SCOTUS Bobbs-Merrill Co. v. Straus 1908 and 17 U.S.C. 109) extinguishes any distribution rights a copyright owner might have to a copy which has been (legally) sold.

2) The "principles" aren't my interpretation, they are derived from common-law and codified under "Fair Use" (17USC107). Additionally (108-112) adds specific cases which are automatically deemed Fair Use. More Fair Use cases may be determined by some administrative actions, including determinations by the US Library of Congress.

I'm merely arguing CleanFlicks falls under the principles general Fair Use (107) if not already covered by one of the specified use exemptions (108-112 et al).

>There has never been a precedent saying that you could modify a work as you see fit and redistribute it.

Sony Corp. v. Universal City Studios (464 U.S. 417) (1984) is the infamous betamax case, which legalized time-shifted viewing, even when the viewer had to make an "unauthorized copy" of up to and including 100% of the content in order to accomplish it, as it involved content freely broadcast over-the-air. As one of the codified principles of Fair Use takes into account the proportion of the work copied, this and their language in the case text implies a less than 100% copy would be permissible as well.

The CleanFlicks technology is simply an automated version of the betamax time-shifting.

>Yes that “process” is that the copyright holder edits the content. Not some random third party

Sometimes they might sell/license a censored version, but certainly not always. And not some random third party, but a party that has legally licensed use of the work (including broadcasters, DVD purchasers, or broadcast viewers).

For example, South Park refused to edit their Mohammed episode, but Comedy Central edited it themselves before broadcast. And I seriously doubt copyright owners edit their works for time-compression; it's TBS-TNT-etc that are trying to cram-in more commercials and have rigid scheduling to accommodate. Also, it's now standard practice for broadcasters to edit, time-compress, or completely re-create the credits of TV shows, which are certainly considered to be part of the copyrighted work, as they are typically overlaid earlier in the episode.

No, but on the other hand I also don't want copyright holders to decide if and what parts of a video I am allowed to fast-forward in, or if I am allowed to skip chapters or paragraphs in a book.

They were actually modifying the original content and distributing it.

And it was clearly marked as being edited.

Should I be restricted from modifying products for my personal use? If not, what if I choose to pay someone to make the edits for me? If that's okay, what about purchasing an already edited version? If it's clearly marked as an edited version and I'm purchasing the original as well, I really don't see the problem with a value added product like this.

If I produce some content and people choose to edit it, I really don't care as long as they give me the proper credit (as in, they pay my retail price) and clearly indicate that changes have been made (as well as a list of changes). Something like "X by Y with modifications made by Z (detailed list of changes inside)", where X is the work, Y is the copyright holder, and Z is the retailer.

So it shouldn't be OK for someone not to watch something they don't want to watch? I don't understand or perhaps I'm misreading.

Per other comment: that is explicitly what I'm avoiding saying, because obviously that's an illiberal and unworkable idea. In fact, I'm not trying to mandate anything at all. Not every observation is a criticism, not every criticism is a threat.

There's a service you can pay for right now that does this on the fly for Netflix and other streaming services.

Edit 1: I just found this one: https://www.vidangel.com/ but that's not the one I saw originally. Must be quite a popular service if there are competing providers.

Edit 2: It looks like vidangel got into trouble: https://variety.com/2019/biz/news/vidangel-jury-verdict-dama...

Edit 3: Here's another service: https://clearplay.com/

+1 for clearplay. My folks use it religiously (I don't mean it's literally because of religion, it's just an expression. But if I'm being honest, religion probably has to do with it) and I'm very grateful they do. My youngest siblings are adopted and have special needs, so while they're getting older and are really quite smart, they're extremely vulnerable to the influence of any media they consume, especially when they can't quite understand fiction vs nonfiction. Putting on clearplay 100% of the time when they watch a movie helps keep a lot of nasty surprises from doing so much damage.

I could see myself using this often if it was a built-in feature in netflix/primevideo.

Often I am trying to watch something of low importance on TV while kids are running in and out of the room and I'd rather not accidentally expose them to a pointlessly prolonged sex scene, which seem to be in every single tv show these days for no apparent plot reason.

Vidangel got into trouble because they were a for-pay streaming service selling copyrighted content. Clearplay is just an add-on for Google Chrome which downloads edit lists. They also sell a DVD/BluRay player which uses their lists.

I wonder what Clearplay found to censor in Disney's Toy Story 4, Aladdin, Paddington, and Frozen.

From their privacy policy: "ClearPlay Inc. uses remarketing services to advertise on third party websites to you after you visited our Service."

As someone very close to this story, the way they were doing it should have worked, but Disney writes the laws and owns the courts.

I've spent the first years of my life in Kuwait and that's how stuff you would see on TV was edited there.

It was actually pretty well done(at least from the perspective of a five year old).

Oddly, Baywatch went mostly uncensored.

Growing up as a Mormon kid and seeing these DVDs around, I was always curious why it was legal, and none of the adults I asked had an answer, or even seemed to understand why it wouldn't be. It's funny to discover this article >10 years later and learn that the answer was "it's not."

Hi, almost all the comments are missing the reason why copyright was infringed. To be fair, the Wikipedia article does not make that clear, and the rhetoric on both sides of the lawsuit tries to frame it as an issue of editing content and preserving the artist's wishes, which is not.

From a source article for the Wikipedia article (https://archive.sltrib.com/article.php?id=4026743&itype=NGPS...)

> CleanFlicks is a distributor that produces copies of Hollywood blockbusters on DVD by burning a scrubbed version onto a blank disc.

They made copies of substantial portions of film without changing their essential creative expression. Today we'd recognize it as clear-cut copyright infringement.

On the other hand, as much as creatives and their publishers dislike it, the law is friendly toward those trying to subvert a work's creative expression; e.g. parody, remixes, etc. are protected by fair use.

If, for example, CleanFlicks restricted its operations to selectively scrubbing bought VHS tapes (without making copies), there wouldn't be a case.

What exactly is the difference between modifying copies produced by the manufacturer and creating new copies with unwanted content removed, provided the copyright holder still gets paid for each sale? Does it really matter that they automated the process?

When I saw the title I hoped this to be about a particular kerning issue ...

This is hypocritical at best.

If you don't want sexual content or profanity in your media then either create your own content or pay for the creation of such content.

Manipulating original content to suit your particular moral convictions not only truncates that content but also doesn't help with incentivising the production of original content you might rather want to see.

I see this reaction every time one of these services is discussed here. People with angry, even violent opposition to people fast-forwarding through parts of movies.

It's fascinating. I can't imagine an issue that could affect the parent's life less than this. And yet he and a couple other folks downstream are properly losing their soup over it.

As to the point in question, I tend to disagree that Disney will be disincentivised from making more Star Wars movies because of that time somebody skipped the "Luke's Parents On Fire" scene when showing Episode 4 to their kids the first time.

Fast-forwarding parts of movies for your own private use is entirely different from selling an unlicensed edited version of original content, which is precisely what CleanFlicks did.

Unless that content is licensed under a free licence that specifically permits you to remix content (e.g. some Creative Commons variants) selling an unauthorised edited version is unethical and probably illegal as well.

By arbitrarily removing parts of original content and publishing the changed versions CleanFlicks were altering it in ways the content creators didn't intend and it's perfectly understandably that those content creators don't want to be associated with these versions.

BjoernKW isn't angry, violent or "losing their soup" over anything. It was just a comment that stated pretty plainly and succinctly what their impression of the problem was.

I pay for content that I want to support and I'm very active in choosing media I want to support and putting my money where my mouth is, but there are many reasons why someone might want to use a service like this:

1. Editing for their children as an audience. Something like Lord of the Rings is a classic with an amazing set of movies, but I might not want to edit a few things for children.

2. Editing gratuitous violence out of an otherwise good film. A lot of movies put in gratuitous violence or swearing just because it is expected to be a "serious film" even though it has no reason to be in it. If there is simply a choice between "Barnie goes to Paris" or "Lord of the Rings" with a few things edited; I know what I'll pick.

3. Slipping standards and ratings in modern movies: classic movies managed to be great without the violence, sex, and profanity. A PG13 of today is very different than a PG13 of yesteryear.

4. Production costs and minority status: the demand for clean films seems low. Producing a state of the art movie costs a lot of money, it's easier to cleanup a film than to produce the same movie from scratch without the objectionable parts. This is something of a minority rights issue and how to fit into a larger society.

5. Triggers and Choice: people have a wide variety of psychological needs and quirks. It is important for them to be able to fit into society and not be traumatized by it. These solutions help a oid things that may trigger things or aggravate conditions.

Choice is similar. You can and should be able to choose what you eat, drink, etc. Same with "mental eating". You can filter your water for things, why not filter what your mind eats to suit your tastes?

Sure, everyone is fine to do as you described for his or her own private use.

You might think that an otherwise good film contains gratuitous violence but the film's creators put it there for a reason. Even if that reason was a shallow one you can't simply decide for yourself to sell a new "improved" version of that content without asking for permission first, which is precisely what CleanFlicks did.

right, but for any parent to do that editing by themselves is a monumental task. If the mormons:

1. bought an original copy of each film

2. added an edited DVD to each box

3. re-sold the box with both DVDs

That would seem ethical to me, and abiding by reasonable copyright laws. Their right to remix (even if in somewhat boring ways) should be important.

> added an edited DVD to each box

The edited DVD is a copy of the original DVD. That is copyright infringement.

> Their right to remix (even if in somewhat boring ways) should be important.

This isn't a remix. A remix should desire to completely change the creative expression of the original into a new creative expression. The edits seek to preserve as much of the creative expression as possible (as much as that does not cross over certain fixed (hence unoriginal) rules). I don't think a reasonable person will think that this is transformative.

That's just the financial side of things. They'd still be tampering with the original piece of content, which most likely isn't what the artist would've wanted.

Then there's the question of if it's really ethical to want to consume content that at least partially is against your moral values. I completely concur with parents' desire to protect their children. However, if it's about adults finding content morally objectionable the actual ethical choice is to simply not watch that content.

I disagree with the parent comment (see my reply), but this isn't correct either.

> That's just the financial side of things. They'd still be tampering with the original piece of content, which most likely isn't what the artist would've wanted.

It's culturally important that people are allowed to transform creative works in ways that the author/artist didn't intend or want. Hence parody is allowed. If I were to redact parts of a book I bought in a store and resell that book, it would be legal. It can also even be ethical.

The problem with CleanFlicks is that they made their own DVD copy to contain copied, edited video of the original film. It's a copy, and hence infringes copyright.

Are you against ad blockers too?

Ads are a different topic.

Anyway, ads aren't content themselves but a means for paying for that content, which in itself is completely legitimate.

The reason why I'm not against using ad blockers is that the way ads often are used today poses security and privacy risks as well as performance problems.

> ads aren't content themselves but a means for paying for that content

I’ve seen plenty of ads that are creative, funny, and engaging in their own right. A lot of talented people lend their creativity to make these, and your statement feels reminiscent of people that say genres they don’t like aren’t actually music. It’s incredibly condescending to dismiss their work as “not content”.

Then let me define it more precisely: Ads usually are not the content a user requested or wanted to see when accessing a particular media outlet.

In a way, well-designed ads are similar to a well-designed checkout process in that respect: I can admire its beauty or simplicity but I wouldn’t visit a website solely because of it.

This whole conversation is about the situation where the artist/author includes something that the viewer/user doesn’t want to see. Whether or not to include ads is as much an artistic choice as whether or not to include profanity— they’re both parts of the aggregate experience, and editing them out means you’re no longer experiencing the work as its creator intended. This is evident in that works sometimes include fictional advertisements with the same presentation as you would expect from real ones.

As such, I struggle to see a meaningful distinction between these cases. As a corollary, I also believe online publications have a responsibility to exercise editorial control over the ads that appear on their sites.

Ironically it's not usually the artists' choice, it's not unusual for the actual creators to be under contracts to the publisher which give them very little veto over the context in which a work is shown and what ads are included in it. Especially with works produced by a large number of people like films.

But it was their choice to enter into the contract in the first place. When someone delegates part of their job to someone else (in this case distribution to the publisher), that doesn’t absolve them of responsibility for the end result— choose your partners wisely, because their choices will reflect on you.

Yet you could make the same claim (" not the content a user requested or wanted to see") for edited movies.

Ad blockers are distinct as ads are separate from, and frequently interfere with, the actual content. The ads themselves are written by different people.

If the goal is "consume media as the artist intended", then ad blockers are entirely in line with that goal.

You're bonkers if you think that news websites intend for you to read news without ads.

Ultimately this is just another case of "rules for thee but not for me".

Sounds like a legitimate idea executed the wrong way. If there is a genuine need in the market for such a service, surely the studios would cooperate (ideally with the director) in order to produce a clean cut?

Seems to me very similar to overdubbing with other languages. Definitely kills all the hard crafted work of sound design and nuance in actor's performance, something the director should be the authority on - but deals are worked out and films are distributed with language tracks because there's huge global markets and it's ultimately a business decision.

Check out the VidAngel case where they tried to work with the studios to get a licensing agreement but were instead litigated against. They wanted to work with the studios, but they wouldn't, so they found a way that they thought was technically legal.

There absolutely is a sizable market for this type of content, but content producers don't want to budge. I think there are a lot of great films that have content I don't want my children watching, and my choices are either to find an edited copy or not consume the content. The problem is that the copyright holder's position is that I'm free to consume other content, whereas my position is that I should be able to modify whatever content I purchase or pay to have access to.

Personally, I don't think copyright owners should have any standing to force consumers to consume content in the way the producer intended, they should only be able to offer the content or not. As long as there copyright owner is compensated for each sale, I see no problem with adding value, such as by editing the content or adding to it, provided the modifications are enumerated.

> surely the studios would cooperate

There's are a lot of market needs not being met by the studios. A need has to be huge for them to care.

Isn't this similar to what airlines used to do (maybe still do) when movies played on shared screens?

If it's opt-in I don't see a massive problem with such a service per se. Tricky to gauge how to move your kids to regular stuff though

Mainly its copyright infringement and also potentially infringement of the creator's moral rights if you do it without permission of the copyright holders and/or creator. The latter part is the most interesting to me. It says "You can't represent this as being my movie if you alter it in a way that I don't approve of". I certainly understand the desire to do it and I find it a bit of a shame that the company couldn't handle the agreements to do everything above board.

The airlines don’t do it. The company that owns the copyright creates edited versions for different venues.

thanks for that, I had assumed that it was the airlines but it makes sense that it's the copyright owners that do it.

I hate this bullshit

I would like to hear about the doublethink employed by the good mormon workers who compile these edit/skip timecode lists.

I'd imagine it's along the same lines as good police officers who sift through all the photographs, video, and audio recordings that conflict with their moral compass.

What do you mean? I screen stuff before allowing my children to watch all the time. My parents did the same and would sometimes skip scenes they knew were bad (e.g. a sex scene in an otherwise adolescent-friendly film).

Nobody was forced to take the job. Everybody has different standards for what they want to allow into their home, and it makes sense for parents to be able to block certain content they feel is inappropriate.

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