New DVD player cuts out the smut

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Like some kind of electronic air freshener, a new generation of DVD players is poised to clear the smut, violence and bad language out of living rooms all across America.

Like some kind of electronic air freshener, a new generation of DVD players is poised to clear the smut, violence and bad language out of living rooms all across America.

Thomson Inc is preparing to ship the revolutionary machines to both Wal-Mart and Kmart in the United States in the next few weeks. The family-values brigade is already applauding, while the Hollywood community is pursuing a lawsuit to have them banned.

The players, which will sell for $79 (£45), are equipped with technology by a Salt Lake City-based company called ClearPlay. They will be pre-programmed to spare viewers segments of films that feature offensive language, excessive violence or sexual content, by muting the sound or skipping ahead.

Several leading Hollywood figures, however, including Steven Spielberg and Steven Soderbergh, are backing a lawsuit, arguing that the technology will violate the rights of directors who expect their works to be viewed in their entirety, without censorship.

"In the guise of making films 'family-friendly', ClearPlay seeks to make whatever 'edits' they see fit to any material they don't like," said the Directors Guild of America. "By not seeking the consent of the director, whose name on the movie reflects the fact that the film comprises his or her work, or of the studio as copyright holder, they can and do change the very meaning and intent of films."

The machines will be pre-programmed to edit about 500 titles. By inserting ordinary DVDs of these films, consumers will be able to select from 14 levels of filtering. Choose the top level and you might wonder what will be left of some of Hollwyood's more lurid offerings. What would the running time be for a tidied-up Arnold Schwarzenegger feature - two minutes?

Thomson, which markets its products under the RCA brand in America, decided to push ahead with the new players in spite of the lawsuit. "It's another example of a way technology can be used by a parent to monitor, if not control, what a child is seeing," said spokesman Dave Arland.

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