Thanks to what they say is a loophole in copyright law that allows cuts for "educational purposes," new companies such as Flix Club, a store in Orem, and older companies such as Cougar Video, are getting back into the edited-movie market.
A portion of the Copyright Act reads: "the fair use of a copyrighted work, including such use by reproduction in copies or phonorecords or by any other means specified by that section, for purposes such as criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching (including multiple copies for classroom use), scholarship, or research, is not an infringement of a copyright."
Film editors say this section can be used to get around the July 2006 ruling by Judge Richard P. Matsch that stated sanitizing movies on DVD or VHS tape violates federal copyright laws. It marked the end of a three year legal battle between several film editing companies and 16 Hollywood directors started by a Colorado CleanFlicks store.
Matsch ordered Utah-based CleanFlicks and others named in the suit, including Play It Clean Video of Ogden and CleanFilms of Provo, to stop "producing, manufacturing, creating" as well as renting edited movies and ordered the businesses to turn over their inventory to the movie studios within five days of the ruling.
The companies had become particularly popular in Utah because of the large number of people who are members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Members of the LDS church are discouraged from watching R-rated films. The companies were editing out objectionable language, sex and violence from Hollywood films and renting or selling the new versions.
Daniel Thompson, the former franchiser of four CleanFlicks stores and the current owner of 2-month-old Flix Club, said that he first heard of the loophole from a colleague and immediately called the distributor from whom he buys edited copies of films. Thompson said that after some research, his distributor confirmed not only the existence of the loophole but also its legal validity.
Though the original suit dealt with many intellectual property issues, it focused on artistic control and the legal principal of fair use.
Companies editing films, however, say they are legitimately bypassing the court's ruling regarding "fair use" by labeling their practices as having "educational purpose," and therefore falling under section 106's legitimate fair use provisions.
The Director's Guild of America, which represented many of the parties involved with the original Colorado suit against CleanFlicks, refused to comment to the Daily Herald for the paper's Sunday story on the re-emergence of companies who provide edited movies.
A message left Sunday by The Associated Press on a Director's Guild of America media contact line was not immediately returned.