By Sarah Heitman
In 1998, when local movie fans wanted to see the film ?Titanic? without the objectionable nude scene, they took their tapes to a video rental store in American Fork. Sunrise Video edited more than 2,000 VHS copies of Titanic for customers by physically cutting the tape with scissors and splicing the tape back together with scotch tape.
Now those who want to watch movies without offensive content can rent or buy an electronically edited DVD on the Internet; they can also purchase a DVD player that skips and mutes any inappropriate material in a movie. These new, high-tech innovations allow many movie watchers to view cleaned-up versions of many popular R- and PG-13-rated movies.
The rapidly growing trend of edited movies sparked a lawsuit, congressional legislation and an ongoing moral debate. Two Utah-based companies, ClearPlay and CleanFlicks are caught up in the controversial issue. However, if Congress passes a recently introduced bill, it will significantly impact the litigation.
U.S. Sen. Orrin Hatch introduced the Family Movie Act, packaged with the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005, in January. The bill would protect distributors of content-filtering technology from copyright infringement liability.
The bill passed through the Senate and currently awaits House approval. If the bill passes, it would effectively end the lawsuit against ClearPlay because the company doesn?t physically alter the DVD during the editing process.
ClearPlay?s technology allows users to skip and mute offensive scenes without physically altering the DVD. The player works by creating a unique filter for each film by ?tagging? certain scenes for offensive content. Users can put any DVD into a ClearPlay-enabled DVD player, but they must download the filter for the specific movie they want to watch.
The new bill, however, will not affect the Director?s Guild suit against CleanFlicks and other companies that sell electronically edited DVDs because the DVD is permanently altered during the editing process.
CleanFlicks President Allan Erb refutes the guild?s claim of copyright infringement. He said the directors and film companies in question don?t suffer economic losses because CleanFlicks purchases an original copy of a movie for each edited-version copy it creates.
?They [the movie studios] are increasing their revenues as a result of our services,? Erb said. ?They sell more because of us, and we are giving them a new market.?
CleanFlicks started as a small chain of video rental stores in Utah, but now sells and rents its edited movies through its Web site, as well as supplies movies to video stores and bookstores across the country.
Some CleanFlicks customers don?t want to be offended by questionable content, and some want to protect their children, Erb said.
?Our clients are tired of constantly degrading moral values in public entertainment,? Erb said. ?Our customers use our service because they are seeking something that would allow them to participate in public entertainment without being grossed out.?
While many at BYU agree Hollywood directors produce too many inappropriate movies, when it comes to the subject of edited movies, opinions vary widely. To some, CleanFlicks offers a service that allows them to take part in entertainment that would otherwise be inappropriate. Others say renting an R-rated movie is inappropriate, even if it has been edited.
?I like watching movies from CleanFlicks, but I won?t watch a movie that?s bad, even if it is from CleanFlicks,? said Brandon Stoker, a sophomore from Lawrence, Kan. ?I like to get movies from CleanFlicks that I?d watch anyway, but CleanFlicks takes out all the swearing.?
For others, editing someone else?s movie without permission ruins the movie experience. Mike Morrill, a senior from Fall Branch, Tenn., said he doesn?t blame directors like Steven Spielberg for being angry about film editing
?Every scene in Schindler?s List, or in any movie for that matter, is there for a reason,? he said. ?In many cases, I don?t agree with someone cutting out a scene because it makes them squeamish. It dilutes the message of the movie, and it shows a lack of respect for the director.?