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Cleansers drive Hollywood to court

San Francisco, Sept. 22 (Reuters): Hollywood directors have asked a federal court to stop companies from re-editing their movies into family-oriented versions without sex or cursing, saying the changes violate artistic freedom and copyright law.

The Directors Guild of America, the union representing Hollywood directors, said it had asked the US District Court in Denver for a permanent injunction to block about a dozen firms from distributing unauthorised versions of films that have been re-edited to remove content such as nudity and foul language.

The companies involved offer re-edited DVDs and videos or editing software that expunge“objectionable” elements of films.

“It is wrong to cut scenes from a film — just as it is to rip pages from a book — simply because we don’t like the way something was portrayed or said, then resell it with the original title and creator’s name still on it,” Directors Guild president Martha Coolidge said.

The directors told the court that offering the re-edited versions of the films violates a US law that prohibits trademark infringement, false advertising and unfair competition. The directors noted that this law has been applied in the past to protect artists’ rights not to be associated with unauthorised, edited versions of their work.

CleanFlicks, a Utah-based company, and Robert Huntsman, who has a patent pending for a new way to edit movies, last month filed suit against 16 Hollywood directors, including Steven Spielberg, Martin Scorsese, Robert Altman, Sydney Pollack and Robert Redford. That suit asked the court to guarantee the right to re-edit Hollywood films under the right to free speech guaranteed by the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

The directors’ guild, responding to CleanFlicks, asked the court to let it represent all its director-members and to include 13 other people and services that re-edit movies as defendants to its counter-claims.

“It is wrong to circumvent the studios, who are the copyright holders, and the director, who is the film’s creator — all in the name of turning a profit,” Coolidge said.

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