Monday, July 10, 2006

CleanFlicks Smashed By Court Ruling

CleanFlicks were the brainchild of Ray Lines. What they did was, frankly, disgraceful. In order to better deceive, they re-edited feature films, cutting out all of the "bad" language, sex and violence, and then supplied these new, "sanitised" versions to video stores.

Over half of these video stores were in Utah. I can't tell you where the others were, but I don't think you'd find on in Manhattan, say.

Now US District Judge Richard Matsch has ruled that their practices were unlawful, calling it an "illegitimate business" that causes "irreparable injury to the creative artistic expression in the copyrighted movies."

A couple of other, less well known, companies were also named in the suit - Play it Clean Video and Clean Films - and all three were given just five days to turn over their inventories, ordered to stop "producing, manufacturing, creating" these butchered titles.

Their problem, as far as I can see, is that they ran this service as a profit-making business. Once you own your own copy of a DVD, I believe you are allowed to duplicate it for back-up purposes. Furthermore, you are allowed, if there is no means by which it can bring you profit, to edit that DVD's content how you see fit. So, unfortunately for profiteers like Ray Lines, the only legal way the people of Utah can blinker their children (or, frankly, whoever they want to lie to today) is by purchasing their own copy of the film and trimming it themselves.

The majority of the films released through CleanFlicks and their ilk were mediocre-to-awful films, often full of gratuitous cussing, humping and bloodletting. Their customers wanted to see the same rubbish that everybody else flocks to Hollywood Video for, they just wanted to remove the films of what little interest - albeit the most salacious, shallow, kind of interest - there was in them to begin with. So, any argument of superiority or taste these censors might ever try to spin vanishes in a puff of smoke.

I'm reminded of Hostel, a film that, after a CleanFlicks scrubbing would run to little more than ten minutes - maybe - and make absolutely no sense at all. Of course, it also happens to be one of the smartest, most worthwhile films in living memory, full of moral questions and demanding that an audience actually think about what they are seeing and engage in a meaningful debate with the images and ideas they are given. And how long has it been since Land of the Dead was out now? About 12 months? Two of the best films of the last year or so were so far off of the CleanFlicks radar... films that I, personally, would want to give free screenings of to the teenagers of Utah.

I'm only telling you what you already know. These censoring companies are run by and for folk who make superficial and crass choices about content, are deceitful, and who refuse to deal with the complexities of reality. I don't think their crimes stop just at this new-media Final Cut-facilitated form of book burning.

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