Leaving the legal mumbo-jumbo out, here is Reason's summary of Monday's decision:
CleanFlicks is one of several companies that clean up sex and violence and foul language in movies and then sell the bowdlerized versions (which are clearly labeled as such) to their mostly religious customers. Among the sanitizers' most widely reported edits was the redaction of Winslet's breasts from the arty scenes in James Cameron's Titanic.I happen to own a cleaned-up copy of Titanic, given to me by one of my sons. At the time he was 16, my younger son was 12, and our daughther was 5. I wanted to watch the movie with our older boys and not have to subject them to that scene. (Believe me, the movie is just fine without it.) In our family, we believe it is spiritually very unhealthy to view such material. If that makes us puritanical in some people's eyes, so be it.
Such simple acts of repurposing content ran afoul of, among others, the Directors Guild of America, which claimed that such actions infringed on moviemakers' copyright protections. Now, according to an account at E! Online, "a federal judge in Denver has ordered several companies to cease and desist from editing out movie content they find offensive."
This is a case in which the self-importance and arrogance of the Hollywood entertainment machine won. Here's part of a statement about the case by Michael Apted, president of the Directors' Guild of America:
"Directors put their skill, craft and often years of hard work into the creation of a film," added Apted, whose own repertoire includes the 1999 James Bond adventure The World Is Not Enough and Gorillas in the Mist. "These films carry our name and reflect our reputations. So we have great passion about protecting our work...against unauthorized editing."(Pause to roll eyes.)
Oh, please. This ruling, if upheld, only forestalls the inevitable. If there is a market for movies without the gratuitously-inserted sex or nude scene (and please do not tell me that such scenes are not inserted, or that artistic integrity requires them), people will find a way to serve that market. Maybe you'll be able to purchase a DVD and a machine that will alow you to edit offensive scenes on your own, in the privacy of your own home. (First Amendment libertines love that "privacy of your own home" stuff.)
Matter of fact, a Salt Lake City-based company called ClearPlay already sells "computer software and modified DVD players that allow viewers to skip over any materials they deem objectionable." Will that technology be the next Target of Apted and company?
Make a statement. Contact ClearPlay and buy one of their special DVD players.
And no, I don't have any connection to ClearPlay. I just think what they do is cool.