Sunday, July 09, 2006

thou shalt not edit

what do you do if you're a social conservative who loves hollywood movies but is mortified by profanity, violence, and partial nudity? how can you keep current on all the latest blockbuster flicks without subjecting yourself to the occasional D-word or exposed nipple?

until recently, you could rent all your dvds from a service like cleanflicks or play it clean video, which offered custom-burned dvds of movies with all the objectionable content excised. if you wanted to watch titanic but couldn't bear the thought of seeing kate winslet topless, these places were ready to serve you.

it might sound like bizarro world. you might be thinking "seeing kate winslet topless is the only reason to watch titanic!" but there is a market for such things. or at least there was before it was declared illegal:

Edited-movie distributor CleanFlicks plans to appeal Monday the decision of a federal court judge who has ruled that production of "sanitized" movies violates federal copyright law and hurts the Hollywood directors and studios who own the movie rights.

The legal battle over editing movies to remove nudity, harsh language and other elements included 16 prominent directors, including Steven Spielberg and Robert Redford, and entertainment studios such as Disney, Sony, Universal, Paramount and Twentieth Century Fox. They filed suit in 2002 against companies — mostly in Utah — that edit DVD and VHS tapes for content.

U.S. District Judge Richard P. Matsch issued his decision Thursday, ending a three-year court battle. In his 16-page ruling, Matsch said cutting language, sex and violence causes "irreparable injury to the creative artistic expression in the copyrighted movies" and referred to the businesses as "illegitimate."

Unless an appeal is filed, those named in the suit, Utah-based CleanFlicks, CleanFilms and Family Flix USA and Arizona-based Play It Clean Video, must stop "producing, manufacturing, creating, designing, selling, renting" edited movies.

CleanFilms could not be reached for comment on whether it plans to join the appeal. Family Flix USA shut its doors in 2005 after five years of business. Play It Clean Video no longer operates stores in Utah or Arizona.

The judge also ordered the businesses to turn over their inventory to the movie studios within five days of the ruling.

"Having CleanFlicks shut down and the corporation shut down would destroy CleanFlicks," said Daniel Thompson, owner of the four CleanFlicks shops in Utah County. "I think it's ridiculous that you can't watch a movie without seeing sex, nudity or extreme violence. I don't understand why they're trying to keep that in there."

of course, you can "watch a movie without seeing sex, nudity or extreme violence" by doing some research and only choosing to watch movies without such content, but that's not as easy as going to the censorship store.

the salt lake tribune points out that this ruling does not apply to companies like clearplay, which sell specialized dvd players that supposedly edit out objectionable content automatically (and which i blogged about last year).

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