Arlington, Va. — A recent federal appeals court ruling that ordered the shut down of Utah-based CleanFlicks for violating copyright laws by offering sanitized versions of popular movie titles was “an example of copyright laws gone awry,” Consumer Electronics Association president Gary Shapiro said in a statement on the case.
“The movie industry suffers no economic harm. The defendant, CleanFlicks, purchased a DVD for every movie that it edited and sold to parents,” he said. “This has nothing to do with piracy. This is all about further limiting fair use rights of consumers to make choices of what they view, when they view it and how they view it.”
Following a three-year legal battle between 16 Hollywood directors and several Utah-based video businesses, a federal court judge ruled last week that companies that remove foul, sexual or violent scenes and language from copyrighted movie content on DVDs and VHS tapes violate U.S. copyright law and must stop the practice.
CleanFlicks, which bought original movies and defeated copy projection mechanisms in order to edit out objectionable material, was told to hand over their entire inventory to movie studios that made the films. CleanFlicks operated a chain of video rental stores in the Salt Lake City area.
In addition to CleanFlicks, the 16 directors have targeted similar Utah video businesses including Play It Clean and CleanFilms.
Movies edited by the companies were allegedly burned onto discs and rented or sold to consumers over the Internet or through video stores around the country.
Additional appeals are pending before the video companies are forced to discontinue operations.
According to an AP report, U.S. District Judge Richard P. Matsch issued a 16-page decision last week that said editing potentially objectionable material from copyrighted movies harmed the rights and creative artistic expression of Hollywood directors and studios.
Shapiro said the case “proved how copyright law has tilted toward content owners at the expense of the public.”
“In my lifetime, copyright terms have been extended 11 times, and the penalties for violations have increased dramatically. A barrage of legislation, like the audio broadcast flag, the Perform Act and the analog hole bill, would require innovators to design their products to add cost and reduce features and operability, regardless of how the product is used,” Shapiro continued.
“Finally, massive, costly and frequent lawsuits against legitimate companies like CleanFlicks and XM Satellite Radio chills innovation and hurts our economy.”
“Congress must say no to the content industry’s voracious demand for yet more rights at the expense of ordinary Americans,” concluded Shapiro. “It is time that Congress stopped considering any copyright legislation which does not recognize and protect the legitimate needs of consumers.”