Filtering Films: An Empirical Study of What Consumers Would Mute and Excise from Hollywood Fare if Only They Could
35 Pages Posted: 22 Jan 2020
Date Written: July 4, 2018
In 2016, the technology startup VidAngel offered a movie streaming service that empowered users to mute potentially offensive audio and cut potentially offensive video from Hollywood films. Copyright litigation forced VidAngel’s service offline in December of that year. But, in the preceding eleven-and-a-half months, VidAngel managed to transmit roughly four million filtered streams and, for each of them, to record not only which filters were applied, but also how many minutes of the resulting film each user then watched. In this Article, we use the VidAngel data to study the market for filtered motion picture content. Among our findings are that video filters are primarily used to filter scenes involving intimacy, rather than those related to violence; and that, while the most common filtered audio is the word “f*ck,” users are even more likely to mute the words “Christ” and “dink.” Overall, even the most cautious viewers use filters as scalpels, not sledgehammers, muting and excising only a tiny fraction of a film’s content. And, perhaps most surprisingly, despite the imperfections inevitably introduced by unscripted interruptions in a movie’s audio and video presentation, users who watch filtered films turn out to enjoy them to roughly the same degree as do users who watch the corresponding unedited originals.
Keywords: copyright, Hollywood, moral rights, filtered films, MPAA, VidAngel, ClearPlay, CleanFlicks
JEL Classification: Z11, K00
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation