Movie studios routinely “clean up” films, scrubbing them of obscenities for broadcast on television and airlines. But studios don’t sell these movies to the public. Enter CleanFlicks, LLC., Family Flix and Play it Clean Video, LLC. These companies were happy to clean up Hollywood movies for sale or rental. But the movie studios weren’t happy with them. In 2004 the Director’s Guild of America and some of Hollywood’s most famous directors, including Steven Soderbergh, Martin Scorsese and Steven Spielberg, filed suit, alleging that the cleaning companies violated the studios’ and directors’ copyrights.
In July the federal district court in Denver agreed with the studios. But it was a Pyrrhic victory for Hollywood. It’s true that CleanFlicks and company can no longer sell scrubbed-down videos. But new technology, along with some congressionally mandated changes to the copyright law, now make it possible for companies to sell software and devices that allow consumers to clean up their own DVDs.
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