NEW YORK – A legal battle between a Utah company and Hollywood could spell the end for a new business that edits movies to clean up sex, nudity, profanity and violence.
A Colorado franchise of CleanFlicks, a supplier of edited movies headquartered in Utah, asked a judge to rule that their business is legitimate and does not violate copyright laws.
The Directors Guild of America countersued on Friday, naming 12 other editing businesses and seeking an injunction against all of them.
At issue is whether a company can sanitize films for more family-friendly viewing or if it's blocked by federal copyright law.
CleanFlicks says its practice is allowed under copyright law because for every sanitized tape or DVD it sells, it buys a copy of the original.
"If you own the tape, you're allowed to do whatever you want with that tape," said John Dixon, president of CleanFlicks.
Dixon said if you can buy golf balls and then paint them blue, you can edit movies. But many in Hollywood don't buy the comparison.
In a letter in the group's monthly magazine, guild President Martha Coolidge asked: "Is it right to take finished films that have been created by someone else, change them to suit your whims, then profit by the commerce of these grossly altered products - and at the same time portray these versions as still being the works of their original directors?"
The idea to start CleanFlicks began after Kate Winslet's famous topless Titanic scene came to a video shop in American Fork, Utah, which has a large Mormon community.
The shop then edited 10,000 copies of the tape.
Founded over two years ago in Pleasant Grove, Utah, CleanFlicks either removes a few minutes of scenes or drops the volume on words such as "Damn" or "Hell," or phrases like "Oh, my God," said Dixon.
Gone under CleanFlicks standards: the Sapphic scenes of Mulholland Drive, Denzel Washington's bullet-riddled body flailing about at the end of Training Day, a Meet The Parents bedroom interlude and a silhouetted Top Gun love session between Tom Cruise and Kelly McGillis.
"If I want to watch a movie with my family, I'm going to be hard-pressed to find a movie we can watch together," said Dixon. "We wanted everyone to have an opportunity to see Rated R and PG-13 movies and to have the scenes which are offensive deleted."
Also cut: Jim Carrey, in kung-fu mode ripping the heart out of chef's chest in the comedy Dumb and Dumber, a Lord of the Rings beheading and the bloodied, severed limbs of dying soldiers in Saving Private Ryan's intense opening sequence.