Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Smut Editors

Christianity Today emailed this article today:

COMMENTARY

No More Smut Editors?


A federal judge has ruled that it's illegal for companies to "sanitize" videos by editing objectionable content. And in principle, I tend to agree.

By Mark Moring | posted 07/11/2006

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.(read the rest of the article here)

I wrote this response:

I read your article and believe that you make some interesting points. The only thing that bothers me about this is that they made it against the law to clean movies up. Somebody wanted to provide a service to people who enjoy the great stories without the shocking material. Often shocking material (especially sexual) is included to “one-up” the competition. It’s a feature that some people would like to do without. Like caffeine or sugar or fat. Should it be illegal to remove caffeine from coffee because it upsets Starbucks or one of their bean growers? Absurd, I know. Or is it the same?

Let me give you an analogy (hopefully it’s “apples to apples”): There are some great stories in the Bible. They are written well. They are graphic, violent, sexual, vulgar language is used (maybe not vulgar in our culture, but definitely in cultural context), but we clean these stories up all the time. In children’s church and even in adult Bible studies, the scriptures are quite sanitary. If we were to tell it straight, people would be offended.

My point is, this ruling “throws the baby out with the bath water “; the baby being the story and the bathwater being the objectionable material.

Have one opinion or another, but don’t make it illegal to choose to censor your own material you purchase. Suing your customers (i.e. those that purchase your movies from you and then sanitize them) is biting the hand that feeds you.

I'd be very interested in hearing your thoughts on this...

7 comments:

Bob Franquiz said...

Here's my 2 cents:

What makes this different than me watching "The Matrix" on TBS yesterday and there were scenes edited, words overdubbed, and even the presentation of the film (From widescreen to pan and scan) was different than its' original version. Why is what these companies are doing that's different than what cable or network TV does to show a movie? Nothing. What is different? $$$$

Bryon Mondok said...

Bob:
So true.

Your two cents is worth at least 5 cents :)

pete said...

That's a great analogy about the caffeine and coffee. And Bob make a great point about network TV doing the exact same thing! Wow! What is the difference? I guess it really comes down to $$$$. Sad.

I have one of those DVD players that have TV Guardian technology built-in to it (http://tvguardian.com/). It filters out a majority of the profanity that are prevalent in many Hollywood movies. I understand that there is newer technology that will even clip out questionable and objectionable scenes!

I suppose those devices are different from actual movies that you would obtain or rent that are pre-filtered at a cost. At least, these devices are able to stick around because you're buying or renting them as the original unfiltered product and doing it at home.

jan@theviewfromher said...

The Bible analogy is close, but I think the true comparison is if someone was so offended by the violent portions of the Bible that they completely deleted them. Then, reprinted and sold copies of the Bible without them. Would conservative Christians be okay with that?

Bryon Mondok said...

Jan:

I'd get a Children's Bible.

Max Power said...

This situation genuinely perplexes me. Last time I checked, move studios were still businesses... the goal of a business is to MAKE MONEY. So if they're making their cash, who cares if some cuss words and nudity is removed?! I also don't want to hear about how these things are "works of art" that shouldn't be altered. "Scary Movie 3" destroys that argument. I think the reality of the situation is that large media has a subversive agenda to spread sex, nudity, violenece etc. in film for the purposes of creating a more liberal society. Think about it - if you inundate a culture with a specific concept through media (e.g. homosexuality is cool, war in Iraq is bad), they will eventually start to believe what they're told. That's not a conspiracy theory - that's common sense.

MWest said...

"sanitizing" videos....reminds me of non-alcoholic beer....enough of the original to stoke the temptation for the real stuff. Sometimes a step into dangerous territory for the not so strong-willed.