Late last week, a federal judge in Colorado ruled that "sanitizing" movies on DVD or VHS is a violation of federal copyright laws, and companies that engage in that practice must turn over their inventory to Hollywood studios.
The decision, which came last Thursday, affects such businesses as CleanFlicks, CleanFilms, and Play It Clean Video. Such companies are known for offering "family-friendly" versions of popular movies—including R-rated films—by editing out objectionable content such as sex, nudity, profanity, and graphic violence.
In a 16-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Richard P. Matsch called the practice of sanitizing videos "illegitimate," and ordered those companies to stop "producing, manufacturing, creating" and renting edited movies.
I think the judge made the right call, at least in principle. Copyright law is far too complicated for me to determine whether sanitizing videos is technically legal—the companies argue that it is legal, citing "fair use" guidelines for copyrighted material—but my concern is about whether it's right.
And I don't think it is.
Movies—even bad ones—are works of art, created by artists with a certain vision of what they want to communicate—and how they want to communicate it. And as works of art, films should remain in their original forms, untouched, unedited, unsanitized. If a particular film's content is too objectionable to certain viewers, those viewers shouldn't watch that film. Simple as that.
There are a number of movies I'd like my sons to see … some day. But for now (they're 15 and 13 years old), they're just not ready for those movies. A few that come to mind include The Passion of The Christ, Saving Private Ryan, and Schindler's ...1
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