Basically, the bill -- which is now law -- creates an exemption in copyright law, which protects companies like ClearPlay. (In fact, the more cynical critics have claimed that the bill's sole purpose was to benefit this one company.) ClearPlay sells filters for your DVD players that automatically skip sections of DVDs. The filters are programmed to cut material some might consider offensive, like sex, violence, or language. The idea is that parents could let their children watch any DVD movie and know that certain scenes they might object to will be cut.
The movie studios have been fighting ClearPlay, claiming that what they're doing is a violation of copyright. Their basic argument is that by changing the content of the films, the filters are creating a new version of the film which is inconsistent with the artistic intent of the creators. Although the bill now allows ClearPlay to sell its filters, the bill does acknowledge that selling a "remixed" copy of the film on a DVD is a copyright violation. So while a company could sell you a preprogrammed filter that would skip certain scenes in certain movies, they can't sell you a DVD with those scenes cut. Of course, the problem ClearPlay has is that the filters have to be programmed on a per-movie basis. If you rented or bought a DVD that the filter wasn't programmed to edit, the movie would run as normal, with whatever sex, violence, and language it has. So if you buy one of these filters, you also have to make sure you only watch certain movies and not others, if you want the "objectionable" scenes edited out.
So...opinions? Should companies like ClearPlay have the right to do this? Does it differ from the way films are edited for television, since in that case the studios are usually consulted? Does this technology and the new law have implications for the world of fan fiction or fan videos? Where would you draw the line?
House of Mabfan: lots of questions, no answers.