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Want to see World Trade Center without the bad language? The Illusionist without the violence? Titanic without Kate Winslet's breasts? For years, CleanFlicks (and a few similar companies) have sold and rented DVDs with profanity, nudity, violence, and sexual content carefully edited out. For each edited copy sold or rented, a copy of the original was also purchased. We're marketers, CleanFlicks told Hollywood, offering your films to an audience that wouldn't otherwise see them.

No, you're thieves, the Directors Guild of America responded, and sued for copyright infringement. In early July, the directors won. CleanFlicks does "irreparable injury to the creative artistic expression in the copyrighted movies," U.S. District Judge Richard P. Matsch wrote. "Their business is illegitimate."

We at Christianity Today are divided about scrubbing films (as are our readers, as response to our online coverage of the decision indicates). Some emphasize artistic integrity and the dangers of trying to make everything "safe for the whole family." Mel Gibson, they note, sued CleanFlicks for removing three minutes of violence from The Passion of The Christ. Such violence was supposed to make the viewer uncomfortable.

Others reply that the "art" of adding profanity or nudity to an otherwise entertaining film is often just a marketing ploy, as studios seek a rating that will attract 17-year-olds. As one of our readers put it, we'd rather be on the edge of our seats because the movie is exciting, not because we want to hit the fast-forward button before we're confronted with a lustful image. The judge compared CleanFlicks to "putting a fig leaf" on Michelangelo's David. But surely people should be allowed to cover a copy of the statue in their ...

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Scrubbing CleanFlicks
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September 2006

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