Good Parenting or Copyright Infringement?

A very interesting story from AP came down this weekend involving the "scrubbing" of films to make them acceptable for targeted audiences. "Scrubbing" is the technique whereby films are made "clean" through the purposeful editing out of violent or sexual images. The edited product is then repackaged and sold.

Utah-based CleanFlicks, Play It Clean Video, and CleanFilms were all ordered back in July to turn over any inventory of films to the movie studios based on a judge's ruling of copyright infringement. Now the editors are considering themselves back in business. Here's the latest:

Thanks to what they say is a loophole in copyright law that allows cuts for educational purposes (editors) ... are scrubbing more movies, and other firms are getting into the market.

Educational cuts? It would be hard to argue Mission Impossible 3 is a learning experience (unless you're learning how to sprint from Tom Cruise), but that's exactly the rationale for re-starting the scrubbing engine. The CleanFlicks website mentions they are no longer offering edited films for rental, but it's difficult to tell if they plan to start the process anew with the educational-edit loophole.

On this argument I come down squarely on the side of the artists. I recognize the need for children's programming, but I don't think you have to edit someone's artistic vision to get there. Cars, Night at the Museum, Ice Age: The Meltdown, and Happy Feet all cracked the top ten of 2006 in box office revenues; clearly people found programming for their younger children in a big way.

As for teenage fare, such as Casino Royale (PG-13), what happens if it's edited down for a Utah teen who then decides the new Bond is garbage? At that point an editor has financially harmed a product. I've also got to point out the slippery slope presented by profiting off of edits. Why not make Falling Down a hate propaganda message film? With the ease and advancements of home editing equipment, it's easy to see how a movie's message could be completely warped based upon the editor's agenda. China does this very thing with imported American movies. Product is censored to suit the needs of the government.

So then scrubbers of America, I say put away your scissors. Let your box-office dollars do the talking. Family-friendly programming has begun dominating the box office because the free market has rewarded it. Editing is a step backwards on that front. Respect is a two-way street. Don't punish filmmakers just to reward your children with a compromised product. What you teach them on the clean living front is washed away when you destroy artistic expression and ignore the spirit of the law.

------------------------------------------------, where you don't even need to scrub.