If you like your major motion pictures without cusswords and nudity, you may be out of luck. A federal judge in Colorado has ruled that it is illegal for third-parites to edit and release sanitized versions of movies.
Some background: a couple of years ago, we reported on a company called CleanFlicks which had drawn the ire of the motion picture industry. Based in Utah, CleanFlicks uses a homegrown system to check DVDs for questionable material and cleanse it from the movie. One of the results was a version of Good Will Hunting with 125 f-bombs and other colorful expletives muted.
When the technology was shown to a group of directors and other Hollywood types, they were furious. They felt that CleanFlicks and other companies offering the same sort of service were at best, undermining the artistic integrity of their films. The sanitizers argued that there was a strong demand for their services and that their edits were covered under Fair Use. Soon enough, a handful of companies offering movies appeared. Predictably, lawsuits ensued.
In his ruling, US District Court Judge Richard Matsch sided with the Directors Guild of America. He has handed down a permanent injunction prohibiting CleanFlicks, CleanFilms, Family Flix USA, and others from selling or renting the "cleaned-up" movies. In addition, the companies have five days to hand over every sanitized disc and videotape in their inventories to the studios for immediate destruction.
According to the judge, it is up to the moviemakers to decide who their film was appropriate for and tailor it accordingly. "Whether these films should be edited in a manner that would make them acceptable to more of the public playing on a DVD in a home environment is more than merely a matter of marketing; it is a question of what audience the copyright owner wants to reach," he wrote in his ruling. "What is protected are the creator’s rights to protect its creation in the form in which it was created."
An appeal is possible, although one of the defendants—FamilyFlix—has already shut down operations. In the meantime, those who find cursing and nudity in movies unacceptable are advised to simply not watch films that contain content they find objectionable.