Federal Judge Upholds Copyright, Rules in Favor of Adult Content

Michael Hayes
DENVER, Colo. — In a decision championing the rights of copyright holders to disseminate their content with adult material, a federal judge ruled that third parties may not edit films to create “sanitized” versions of movies without permission.

The Directors Guild of America along with several major Hollywood studios filed suit against CleanFlicks, CleanFilms, Play It Clean Video and Family Flix. Each company edits out objectionable language and content from films, providing consumers with a clean, or sanitized version of the title.

U.S. District Court Judge Richard Matsch ruled in favor the DGA’s motion for summary judgment, giving the defendants five days to turn over all existing copies of their edited movies to studio lawyers, who will oversee the destruction of the unauthorized films.

“Their business is illegitimate," Matsch said. "The right to control the content of the copyrighted work is the essence of the law of copyright. This court is not free to determine the social value of copyrighted works. What is protected are the creator's rights to protect its creation in the form in which it was created."

While the ruling could likely destroy the defendants’ business model — Family Flix has already shut down its operations — there was no immediate word on whether the companies intended to file an appeal.

In the meantime, one company, Salt Lake City, Utah-based ClearPlay, could prove to be a big winner in light of the judge’s ruling. ClearPlay makes video filtering software that allows home viewers to shield themselves and their children from objectionable content. While the net result, sanitized films, is the same, it is not certain whether ClearPlay violates U.S. copyright law because it does not create an alternate version of the film.

While no legal challenge has been mounted against ClearPlay by the entertainment industry, representatives from the DGA said that they were concerned about the apparent loophole that allows viewers to change the content of films.