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ClearPlay Looks To Expand

Using the heat of a presidential campaign to point out the family-friendly features of its movie “filtering” technology, executives from ClearPlay recently announced plans to license its system to manufacturers that may want to tap into the powerful family-focused constituency.

The company, which has a technology that effectively censors objectionable material from DVD movies for seamless playback, is currently selling its ClearPlay-branded DVD players through Best Buy and Target, and is now “talking to all of the major manufacturers” about licensing the technology for additional brands.

The company started out with a line of ClearPlay DVD players offered under the RCA and ClearPlay brands, before the concept was challenged by a lawsuit from the Hollywood Studios. ClearPlay and other developers of movie censoring technologies were sued by the Directors Guild of America in 2004 for altering their copyrighted content.

Members of Congress sympathetic to the ClearPlay (and similar technologies) cause responded by passing the Family Movie Act of 2005, which enabled consumers to edit content for playback in their own home, provided they did not produce a derivative copy of the movie to accomplish the task.

ClearPlay is now free to pursue its technology without challenge. Currently players are available on the ClearPlay Web site and through Target and Wal-Mart. Prices range from about $60 to $80, depending on where the products are purchased. Long-term ClearPlay plans to end hardware distribution, and turn the business entirely over to licensing and filter distribution.

Additionally, the company is now adapting its technology to sources beyond DVD. One approach, called ClearPlay TV, addresses both live and recorded TV programming with closed captioning through a platform that filters objectionable language. Another, called ClearPlayPC, will filter objectionable material using a DVD-ROM-based approach from such content as Internet movie downloads.

Through its ClearPlay International unit, the company is also looking to develop new business opportunities in the United States and international markets.

ClearPlay pointed out that because its technology uses a series of filters to remove objectionable material from movies during playback without creating a separate derivative copy of the film, it does not violate copyright laws.

Objectionable material — graphic violence, nudity, sexual content, foul language — is automatically and seamlessly clipped out of scenes upon playback. The degree to which such material is passed through is user-definable and adjustable through a set-up menu.

ClearPlay DVD players require users to download software filters to a USB thumb drive using a PC. Approximately 3,000 filters are available today and growing all the time.

The filters instruct the players to seamless edit out objectionable scenes, images or dialog. The USB drive with the downloaded filter then plugs into the player to address a particular DVD movie.

Alternatively, a forthcoming technology called ClearPlay Connect will enable a user to easily connect a ClearPlay player to the Internet through an in-home network to download filters, without the need to use a thumb drive approach. It will also download entire libraries of filters at a time. The technology enhancement is expected to be implemented in next-generation high-definition disc players.