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Prudes sue for right to edit rented flicks

Movie directors not amused

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A couple of prudes in Denver are suing for the right to distribute rental flicks with all the good parts removed. Apparently, one of the plaintiffs has some gimmick involving a modified remote control whereby viewers can select between the original and bowdlerized editions, according to a Reuters report.

"Clean Flicks of Colorado and Robert Huntsman, who has a patent pending for a new way to edit movies, filed the lawsuit in federal court, seeking a judgment that would declare it constitutional to provide edited movies to the public for private home viewing," the wire service says.

The two plaintiffs are appealing to the First Amendment, claiming that their sanitized offerings are protected speech. The idea is to get out in front of an anticipated injunction which the pair believes the Directors Guild of America was about to request.

Free speech is certainly a novel approach to circumventing Hollywood's savage copyright-infringement regime, though it would seem the only thing the First Amendment guarantees is the right of the plaintiffs to denounce the movies they would censor. Perhaps a more sensible approach would be to seek some novel licensing scheme with the copyright owners from which both sides might benefit. I see no reason why "9 1/2 Weeks" shouldn't be available in a 9 1/2-minute version for those who wish for some reason to watch it with their young children. I don't see much point to it; but then, the world is full of things I see little or no point to, so that's hardly a basis for evaluation.

However, by filing suit against the directors rather than negotiating with the studios, it seems the plaintiffs have signalled their intention to enact a mere publicity stunt, perhaps in hopes that some organized grassroots prude movement will come to their rescue and make a national issue of their little money-making scheme.

Defendants include some of Hollywood's most pampered prima donnas and heaviest political hitters: Robert Altman, Curtis Hanson, Norman Jewison, John Landis, Sydney Pollack, Robert Redford, Martin Scorsese, Steven Soderbergh and Steven Spielberg.

It should be amusing to see how quickly their legal teams can squash our enterprising plaintiffs like bugs. ®

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