In a bit of good news for censorship foes, a Federal judge in Denver has ruled that retailers who were “sanitizing” films by removing all of the good parts prior to selling them to a probably-witting niche were also violating copyright laws.
This case has been in motion since 2002, when CleanFlicks tried to twist the First Amendment by claiming that they had the right to do whatever they wanted to these films prior to sending them out to the public. The judge, however, saw right through that bullshit:
“[Moviemakers’] objective…is to stop the infringement because of its irreparable injury to the creative artistic expression in the copyrighted movies,” the judge wrote. “There is a public interest in providing such protection. Their business is illegitimate.”
[The Judge] ordered CleanFlicks and the other defendants to hand over their entire inventory of scrubbed flicks to the five major Hollywood studios and stop “producing, manufacturing, creating” and renting the cleaned-up material within five days or face possible court action, including the likelihood of massive penalties.
Whew! That means that only Steven Spieberg can do things like remove the guns from the DVD version of E.T., and only Kate Winslet can make the decision on whether or not you are going to see her naked in every single movie. Why do I cheer this ruling when I love things like the Star Wars Phantom Edit; rockers stealing riffs;those crazy lip-synching YouTube kids, or any kind of recontextualization of an existing piece of art. After all, those are also obviously copyright violations.
A couple of reasons, neither of them likely to stand up in a court of law, of course:
First off, the huge majority of mash-ups & recontextualizations are not done for financial gain. But these sanitizing edits were done completely for the purpose of financial gain. As a matter of fact, it was their fracking business model!!
Furthermore, the editing decisions were made not for artistic reasons, but for moral reasons. I would argue that the language in The 40 Year Old Virgin; the sex in American Pie and the violence in Saving Private Ryan are part of the artistic fabric of those films. Part of the point. By sanitizing those aspects — and only those aspects — of those films (or films like them) for purely moral never artistic reasons they weren’t really creating something new.
The were really, in essence, creating nothing at all. Just empty shells that happened to bear the names of actual art. So not only were they charging people for these films, they were actually ripping them off.