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Monday, Sept. 22, 2014

Provo company creates program that filters online content

By Keith McCord, Deseret News

Published: Wed, Aug. 20 11:55 p.m. MDT

 Daniel Harmon is a co-founder of VidAngel. It's a service that allows users to stream movies without content they don't want to see or hear, such as swear words, gore and sexual content.

Daniel Harmon is a co-founder of VidAngel. It's a service that allows users to stream movies without content they don't want to see or hear, such as swear words, gore and sexual content.

(Winston Armani, Deseret News)

PROVO — People don't have to go to a movie theater anymore. They can stream films right into their homes.

In a few years, it's expected that streaming movies will outpace those that are watched in theatres or on DVDs.

A Utah Country company has found an opportunity to help viewers who want to make sure the scenes they see are suitable for the entire family.

According to VidAngel, the first swear word in a movie was spoken by Clark Gable in “Gone with the Wind” when he said, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”

Since then, the content and language in some movies has certainly gotten more graphic. In fact, a recent examination of nearly 1,000 movies shows the average number of swear words per film is 50.

VidAngel conducted that survey and has created Web application that allows viewers of streamed movies and videos to filter scenes they don't want to see.

“VidAngel is streaming movies minus the bosoms, blood and bad words,” said Daniel Harmon, co-founder of VidAngel.

It works as a Chrome extension, a one-click install available on vidangel.com, and then people are set up, Harmon said.

When people rent a movie through an online service, they will see a menu with the headings: "Language, sexual content, graphic violence" and the like.

“And then you can come in here and say, ‘I really don't want to hear the f-word. I don't want to hear the Lord's name in vain. I don't want to hear this,'" said Jeff Harmon, VidAngel co-founder.

People can filter as much or as little as they want.

“VidAngel will recognize when there's a swear word and mute it, or where there's a sex scene and just skip it, or graphic violence or anything like that,” Daniel Harmon said.

Depending on the things the user choses to mute or skip, the user may get warnings that some of the settings could affect storylines.

Copyright laws prohibit unauthorized altering and then copying movies and software. But a law passed in 2005, based on a Salt Lake case, does allow for technology that "sanitizes" portions for personal viewing.

“There's no copying and burning. There's no altering of the original film,” Daniel Harmon said. “This is legal in the sense that it follows the Family Copyright and Protection Act of 2005 that gives families the ability to alter minimal portions of the film."

Jeff Harmon thinks of it as a "powerful remote".

"So that I don't have to cover up my kids' eyes, or cover my teenager’s eyes or quickly skip a scene, it just does that for me, and I never have to worry about it,” Jeff Harmon said.

It can be set up once, or people can make changes to their preferences depending on what movie they’re watching or who they’re watching it with.

VidAngel, a startup company with about six employees, just launched the service a couple of weeks ago and has about 15,000 users. For now, the free service is only usable on the Google Chrome browser, but the company plans to make it available on other platforms and devices in the future.

“For me it's a big deal because it opens up a way for me to watch some content that I wouldn't normally watch,” Daniel Harmon said. “I wouldn't be comfortable showing my family. Now I can show my kids something."

Email: kmccord@deseretnews.com

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1. MaggieMom
84107, UT,
Aug. 20, 2014

Isn't this the same thing as ClearPlay's filtering for streaming movies?

2. My2Cents
Taylorsville, UT,
Aug. 21, 2014

The problem is with all these so called high tech IT is they are not as smart as they think. In 30-60 days this app will be rendered useless when intelligent teams break his code and bypass his filtering app. Technology is only temporary and no job in technology is permanent because no one can keep up with the changes fast enough, not even computers which have to be programed every time a single I or O is changed.

For this reason technology is not a sustainable industry of benefit to the economy or business or jobs. Jobs in technology is a smoke screen for the mind, its the air pollution of the mind and economy. And the mind can't be scrubbed or cleaned or filtered like tangible particulate matter.

Its impossible for individuals to keep up with intangible changes to manipulate data or make it life so simple the individuals don't need a mind to even function. Sometimes its best to keep the mind functional by making people have to think by using archaic brain power and common sense using the accumulation of math, science, physics, and language stored in the brain.

3. TheOneandOnlySallyOMalleyIm50
United Kingdom, 00,
Aug. 21, 2014

What a potentially scary product and what censors like Harmon never understand is that in seeking to control things, they actually have the opposite effect (in the long run) then they intended. Sanitizing and altering someone else's vision and art is not only dangerous it is also dishonest. Key elements of plot and content--even with a so-called disclaimer--could be lost or skewered and isn't it better to let people decide for themselves the merits of someone else's creative work based on the "entire" thing and not some moralists' narrowed viewpoint of it? An adult should decide what their underage child should or not should not see, but in presenting something that is not fully realized or potentially disjointed and taken out of context says more about the adult's questionable morals than anything a fictional motion picture or televised program ever could.

4. Randon
Saratoga Springs, UT,
Aug. 21, 2014

My2Cents, This concept can't be broken without changing the foundations of how all video works and that just isn't happening without breaking all video players. There is timecode in all video. This company is watching the movies and marking all of the places where the video needs to be muted or skipped. Because all video has timecode, it's a VERY basic function of being able to use things like fast forward and mute after that. These guys are simply taking advantage of what makes the video and there really isn't any type of filter, just instructions of what to do at specific time codes in the movies.

5. one old man
Ogden, UT,
Aug. 21, 2014

Just watch -- comments here will soon be blasting "liberals" for opposing this kind of thing. They will call it "censorship" and a "violation" of our Constitutional rights.

But in my own experience, it's really the conservatives who support this type of device.

Be that as it may, you mark this "liberal" up as one who supports filtering. We need a whole lot more of it. Not less. A constant flow of garbage into our living rooms and computers is a violation of the Constitutional rights of people who don't want it.