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Looking for cash in keeping it clean

Steve Tripoli Jul 10, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: A federal judge says all that sex and violence in movies these days has to stay there. He’s ruled services that strip naughty bits out of films sold for home viewing are violating copyright laws. They’re called video sanitizers. And they’re promising to appeal. But even if they do lose the next round, there is another company out there ready to tame your television for profit. From the Marketplace Entrepeneurship Desk, Steve Tripoli has more.

STEVE TRIPOLI: CEO Ken Roberts of Utah-based CleanFilms says Hollywood shouldn’t be grousing about his company’s edited flicks.

KEN ROBERTS: The movie studios have agreed that we are not causing them any financial harm whatsoever.

That’s because the sanitizers buy a copy of Hollywood’s version of the movie for every one they edit and sell. Roberts says there are also some double standards here when it comes to editing finished films. That’s because Tinseltown trims its own movies for use by airlines, TV and other folks who don’t like the original.

ROBERTS: And when they send their films overseas to countries like Singapore, they edit them as well and clean them up.

UCLA Film School Dean Robert Rosen says that argument misses the point in two ways:

ROBERT ROSEN: The issue here is, who’s in control on the making of those decisions.

Rosen says he’s seen some sanitizers’ editing jobs where the damage is both artistic and commercial.

ROSEN: And in some cases they make the filmmaker look like a real stupid person. To have someone else who is not the director, who is not the filmmaker, make those changes, undermines and mutilates the work and fundamentally undermines the reputation and credibility of that filmmaker.

Last week’s federal court ruling leaves at least one player in the video content war unscathed. Another Utah-based company, ClearPlay, doesn’t touch the video but alters DVD players. ClearPlay’s technology lets the consumer edit and stays within the law.

CEO Bill Aho says ClearPlay wants to take what it does beyond the DVD player to cable, satellite and video-on-demand.

BILL AHO: In virtually any way you watch movies, you should be able to press a button and have control over how you watch it in your home.

So if you and your kids just can’t live without “Titanic,” but you want to drop that racy Kate Winslet scene, you’re not out of options yet.

I’m Steve Tripoli for Marketplace.

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