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Judge Junks CleanFlicks

In Denver, a federal judge has ordered four companies to stop selling cleaned-up edits of Hollywood films, finding that the practice violates federal copyright law, VARIETY reports.

The decision by Judge Richard P. Matsch ends this chapter in a four-year legal battle that began when Utah-based CleanFlicks issued a preemptive suit against the DGA and 16 leading directors, which included guild prexy Michael Apted, Steven Spielberg and Martin Scorsese hoping to obtain a positive court ruling allowing them to alter films.

The DGA then convinced the Hollywood studios to join the action as defendants and issue a counterclaim.

In a 16-page ruling, the judge stated CleanFlicks, Family Flix, CleanFilms and Play It Clean Video violate the studios' rights as copyright holders "to control the reproduction and distribution of the protected work in their original form."

"It is particularly gratifying that the court recognized that this conduct is not permitted under copyright laws," Apted said in a statement. "Audiences can now be assured that the films they buy or rent are the vision of the filmmakers who made them and not the arbitrary choice of a third-party editor."

"No matter how many disclaimers are put on the film, it still carries the director's name," he added. "So we have great passion about protecting our work, which is our signature and brand identification, against unauthorized editing."

The companies claimed that the doctrine of "fair use" gave them the right to edit the films. CleanFlicks said it would appeal. Matsch also ordered the businesses to hand over their inventories to the studios within five days.

CleanFlicks and Family Flix edited sanitized versions of movies, while CleanFilms and Play It Clean Video retailed the altered versions.

Matsch's ruling only affects the films selling or producing the altered versions of the films but not companies selling software that skips and mutes parts of movies on DVD. In a ruling last year, Matsch dismissed all claims filed by the DGA and studios against ClearPlay over its software that filters adult language and content from DVDs.

That ruling came four months after President Bush signed the Family Entertainment Copyright Act, a package of antipiracy measures. Despite Hollywood's objections, the act included the Family Movie Act language that made technology to skip over a movie's video or audio content legal.

ClearPlay ceo Bill Aho said in a statement that he opposed Matsch's latest ruling, "While it may be good for ClearPlay Inc., it's bad for parents. Moms and dads need all the help they can get to protect their kids, and these companies were providing a valuable service."

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Rick DeMott
Animation World Network
Director of Content
Creator of Rick's Flicks Picks