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' Naughty Bits' Decision Not So Nice 459

Posted by timothy
from the expensive-wireless-at-dulles dept.
Many readers found stifling Judge Richard P. Matsch's decision yesterday that Cleanflix, a service selling versions of popular movies edited (some would say censored) to remove violence, nudity and other elements, was in violation of U.S. copyright law for selling these edited versions, while others welcomed the decision as appropriately respecting the intent of those who made the original movies. Read on for the Backslash summary of the conversation, with some of the best comments of the more than 1200 that readers contributed to the story.

While some comments evaluated the decision as a victory for filmmakers as artists rather than merely as copyright holders, some readers aren't so sure that directors' and studios' interests have much to do artistic integrity, and suggest that it's primarily their commercial rather than aesthetic interests being served here. TheFlyingGoat makes a case for this view:

"I understand where the movie companies are coming from in terms of copyright... they don't want people taking a DVD, adding additional clips/features/menus/etc, and selling that for a profit. ...

As for the directors and producers that claim their artistic vision was impeded upon, they sure don't have an issue with those movies being modified in the exact same way for broadcast on network tv. All they care about is the large amount of money the networks give them.

So, what this really comes down to is the movie studios wanting complete control over their works, which I'm surprised to see much of the Slashdot crowd backing up. Seems it's better to hate "the red states" than to hate the MPAA."

Whether even the financial interest of the studios is being served by nixing the Cleanflix service, though, is a point that the same reader finds ambiguous, too. [the studios are] "getting just as much money from each DVD sale, so it's not like they're losing any business. In fact, they're probably gaining business from those people who wouldn't normally buy a certain movie due to violent/sexual/etc content, but will if they get an edited version of the movie."

MarcoAtWork says he doesn't swallow the "artistic integrity" argument either, and notes the bizarre script deviations which licensed showings on broadcast or cable television sometimes end up with: "Something tells me that the director's 'artistic vision' for example didn't include Bruce Willis saying 'Yippee-ki-yay Mister Falcon.' in Die Hard, or 'This is what happens whey you find a stranger in the Alps!' in the Big Lebowski."

Anticipating a "kneejerk reaction," reader Brian_Ellenberger has a more aggressive reaction of his own, writing

"Don't approve of this action just because you think it only hurts a bunch of 'right-wing Christian zealots.' Remember fair use! There was a one-to-one copy sold with each of these DVDs---the original and the edited. The filmmakers did not lose one dime, and in fact made money with each copy sold. ... So if we are to argue that, if you bought something you have the legal right to do whatever you want to it (Fast Forward through commercials, play on a Linux box, rip to a hard drive), then you cannot allow Hollywood to start acquiring new rights for their so-called 'artistic vision.' Otherwise, you will find yourself unable to fast forward through scenes (or commercials) because that would violate the 'artistic vision' of Hollywood."

More concise is reader Raul654's capsule description of the result: "If I own a DVD, I cannot pay someone to make a copy of that movie for me sans parts I might find offensive. It's not censorship, because I'm the one asking him to do it for me."

There are plenty of mixed feelings about motives and results in this discussion, though: reader m874t232 says he doesn't like people who "scrub" movies, but he still doesn't like the outcome because of the short-sightedness he perceives in it, writing "For millennia, art has progressed and evolved by taking some prior artist's work and modifying it, often in ways that the original artist didn't agree with. Except for possibly receiving financial compensation for a limited time for each copy created, artists should not have the power to control what happens to their creations after they have released them to the public."

Reader zakezuke took issue with that viewpoint, arguing instead that
"Fair use would be you making a backup copy, putting the one you bought into storage, and using the backup. This is fair use. Heck, even taking a film that you own, making a copy and cutting out scenes you don't like... that is also fair use. What's not fair use is making a copy, cutting scenes, and selling it as a new version without any consent. This is not a one to one copy as there are scenes cut. Money is beside the point... a copyright holder has every right to choose how a work is distributed. This would include not wanting some bozo cutting scenes on a work that took time to create. Any flaws, mistakes, anything which affects the overall presentation can damage the reputation of the respective studio and artists that created the work. It's like taking spray paint to a piece of fine art and going over the bits one finds offensive, this affects the quality of the piece and the viewer might assume the artist is sloppy dolt or doesn't have the technical skill or is too reserved to make a winkle."

Reader spencer1 offers some insight into why people might want to watch movies in other than their all-killing, all-cursing original versions:

"As others have already stated, this has absolutely nothing to do with Walmart. This applies to services such as CleanFlix, which are very popular in Utah and Idaho. I am a Mormon, and I frequent Cleanflix often. Some movies are very enjoyable, but contain bits that I don't wish to see. If the mainstream want to see those bits, fine, go ahead; these services are not for them. If I don't want to see it, how does it affect you? Cleanflix allows me to rent movies that I would not otherwise rent, they are now turning away a potential customer. This does not hurt the copyright holder, they still receive the full purchase price for all the movies that Cleanflix uses. Their revenue is not altered in any way by this editing."

For anyone who has reason to desire a version other than the theatrical release of a film, the decision against Cleanflix doesn't mean the end of expurgation; reader jambarama points out a technical solution which seems much less legally fragile (and which seems to meet zakezuke's objection above), in the form of another service with a similar practical result, but without the messiness of reproducing a derivative work, writing:

"A good alternative for those who don't want their young children to see 'bad' stuff is Clearplay. We've had it for a while, here is how it works:
  1. Buy a normal DVD with all the "naughty bits"
  2. Get the filter from the clearplay website for that DVD
  3. Transfer the filter via USB or CD to the clearplay DVD player
  4. Watch your DVD - the filter tells the DVD player where to skip the naughty bits - no editing, just timecodes to be skipped."

Something similar could probably be put together fairly quickly using programs like Avidemux or VirtualDub for those who don't mind distributing the work of classifying and sharing the necessary edit-decision lists. Reader OYAHHH outlines how such a system might be implemented for those unlikely to apply hand-edited EDLs:

"What somebody needs to do is to devise a DVD player that can read a file delineating where the objectionable parts are on the particular DVD. Once the bad parts are known to the player the player simply skips them.

People who want to view the unedited version are happy and those that don't desire to see whatever content can be happy as well.

The original content on the original DVD is not altered in any manner. Copyright is protected.

Religious groups could then produce the "files" to correspond to their own needs and distribute these files via the Internet. The files are uploaded to the special DVD player."


Thanks to all the readers who contributed to this discussion, especially those quoted above.

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

' Naughty Bits' Decision Not So Nice

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  • I'm a vocal anti-copyright advocate [nocopyrightstudios.com] and I repeatedly try to get people to realize what most Federal legislation does, especially regulatory legislation: it removes rights from the individual and creates cartelization: legal monopoly. It has happened in every industry that has any form of federal regulation: oil refinery, content distribution, medical licensing, campaign finance rules, even the stock market is cartelized now moreso than every before. Regulation at the national level is unconstitutional regardless of what people think of the non-applicable "interstate commerce clause."

    Cartels exist because they have the legal monopoly to do so. Copyright only helps create and empower the cartels -- it has never helped an individual unless that individual was protected by a cartel. If you created a movie and someone wanted to hack it so that more peopl could watch it -- and they paid you for each and every hack -- you'd love it because you are getting income, you're gaining a new audience, and even more profitable: you're learning what people want. DVD players already allow for multiple versions, and maybe companies would start taking advantage of it had it not been for the big cartel that controls the flow of movie productions and releases.

    Consider you're that same small movie maker -- if someone copies your movie (with or without hacking it), how would you battle them in court? What money would you use to fight the hacker/pirate/modifier/copyright violator? Is the financial risk of losing in court worth the reward? Definitely not -- more proof that cartelization is always bad.

    Stephan Kinsella [stephankinsella.com] made a great case as to why intellectual property restrictions are anti-consumer in his free PDF titled Against Intellectual Property [libertarianstudies.org]. (PDF WARNING) Stephan is a IP lawyer, as well, and has offered dozens of great articles on the problems with IP and how more laws aren't going to support more consumer freedom, better quality products and more competition. When you create federal regulations, you create cartelization. He also has a great non-PDF article from last year titled No such thing as a free patent [mises.org], which goes beyond copyright but makes very good arguments for why they're all bad. This guy makes his living with the law, amazing that he cries out against it.

    While I'm anarcho-capitalistic, I do understand that the Constitution DOES allow regulation of some sort to be created at the state level. This is preferably where regulations "should" be, if at all. The states that over-regulate will see less choice (and higher prices due to decreased supply). The states that don't over-regulate would likely see better choice, safer products and better pricing.

    As usual, the federal government oversteps its bounds predictably -- in the direction of cartels. I won't call them "big business" because no real business exists with the help of government. Thankfully the future of the free market is proving to the world that copyright is insignificant to most people: they'll continue to find new ways to distribute all media products "for free," and the producers of content will have to learn the reality of supply and demand: if it is digital, it has a virtually unlimited supply. Put infinity in the supply/demand/price equation and the price will always fall to zero. This means it is time to find new ways to promote value added products along with your content.
    • There are many cases where the only thing worse than one regulation is 50 different sets of regulations.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Actually copyright (and patents) is explicitly mentioned in the constitution as something the Federal Government is responsible for. I'm not sure legislation at the state level is even constitional, not without an act of Congress anyway.

      And, for what it's worth, protecting the integrity of artistic works strikes me as a worthy use of copyright. Nor is it necessary to be a giant cartel to win, as Gilliam vs ABC (one of the first "moral rights" cases) proves.

      • And, for what it's worth, protecting the integrity of artistic works strikes me as a worthy use of copyright

        I agree, it strikes me as a worthy use of the law, too. But does it work? No. Does public welfare at the national level work? No. Does retirement funding at the national level work? No. Nothing seems to work at the national level -- all national laws sound great when you read their titles, but the descriptions show the fallacy of a large central government.

        Think about it when you consider the "
        • But does it work? No.

          Uh, says who? How doesn't the original conception of copyright not work?

          I can certainly accept that the *current* system is busted, thanks to copyright term extensions (god damn you, Sonny Bono) and the DMCA. But I fail to see the proof that copyright, as a concept, is unworkable.
          • That is the problem with all concepts that entail using the monopoly of force that we call government -- things don't exist as you or I would wish. We could vote for people with our ideas, but they'll never enact them exactly as we wish. Even worse, with time we end up living with laws that our fathers, grandfathers or great-grandfathers created to deal with limited problems but are now existing in manipulated versions to help a select elite few.

            I'll accept government with one condition: a sunset clause on that government every new generation (10-12 years). Destroy all laws and regulations, and force society to regroup and attempt to make new ones. Maybe even create a 2 year period where there are no laws at all except for the basic property rights: don't hurt someone's physical body or property. I think we'd see amazing growth in human development and charity rather than tyranny and disregard for basic rights.
            • Umm... that's quite the randroidian rant, you have there, but I fail to see how it answers my question. You stated that copyright doesn't work. Why?

              And before you start, I should point out that the copyright system, as it exists *today*, is buggered up not because it's enacted by the government, or that it's a federal law, but because the US democratic system itself is broken, thanks to the acceptance of institutionalized bribary by it's citizenry. Quit equating money with speech and make bribary illegal
      • I thought that copyright was for the purpose of encouraging the advancement of the arts and sciences though a protected financial arrangement, not for the purpose of protecting the integrity of those works. It is arguable that an artist who has his work changed and rereleased may be dissuaded from future work, but that's sort of a first-sale doctrine thing. If you don't want people messing with your work, don't sell it.

    • by wall0159 (881759) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @06:28PM (#15701909)
      Well, I think you're right in parts...

      "Cartels exist because they have the legal monopoly to do so" - my (somewhat naive) understanding of economics is that the unregulated free market tends towards mega-corporations - which are basically cartels. I think this has been shown using many computer models, and many initial conditions and that the only way to prevent it is to add some other factor (like regulation/legislation). While free-trade (or libeterianism) seems like a nice ideal, I think that (like other nice ideals: communism, capitalism) it would be horrible in reality (horrible like a boot stamping on a human face, forever).

      Anyway, back to the point, I agree that copyright law, as it stands, isn't working. However, I think this is a problem with the implemtation rather than the concept. Copyright law is about respecting the creations of others - it doesn't have to be about killing the market. There are several problems with copyrights, as I see it:
      1. They last too damn long
      2. They're transferable (can be sold / given away). This comes from the idea of 'intellectual property'. If this wasn't the case, things would be better, I reckon.
      3. The big companies that own a majority of the copyrights also own our governments, and bribe them to enact stupid legislation (DMCA).

      However, I reckon having a non-transferable copyright that lasted say 10 years would work much better, and would be a better result than just scrapping copyright altogether.

      Having said all this, I dind't read your links, but will sometime! ;-)
      • In a free market without regulation, we do see SOME mega-companies that grow into being a majority of the market provider. On such "monopoly" was Standard Oil, which was never a monopoly -- they were large because they lowered the price of oil to the end user every few months. They were never an evil company, but they were sued and dissassembled due to the competitors who could not produce oil as cheaply. When we think of monopoly, we think of high prices and restricted products. The free market of comp
      • by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510) on Wednesday July 12, 2006 @03:30AM (#15703821)
        Copyright law is about respecting the creations of others

        That claim is false.

        At least it is false in countries that, like the USA, follow the Anglo-Saxon common law definition of Copyright. The US Constitution says so explicitly -- "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries." There is nothing in there about "respect" - it is quite simply 100% about increasing the body of public knowledge.

        While you, like many others, may disagree with the US constitution. You might feel that an author has "moral rights" to the result of his labors. You would still be wrong.
    • by yali (209015) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @06:31PM (#15701929)
      I do understand that the Constitution DOES allow regulation of some sort to be created at the state level.

      Actually, that power is specifically granted to Congress [cornell.edu] as far as intellectual property is concerned. The Constitution is pretty clear that it's a federal power.

      Of course, the Constitution is also pretty clear that artificial monopolies (patents, copyrights, etc.) on intellectual property are supposed to be granted "for limited times." And it's also pretty clear that the rationale for granting such monopolies is "to promote the progress of science and useful arts," not to promote business interests. Both of those have been pretty much ignored by Congress.

      I think this whole current controversy over sanitized DVDs would be much less of a big deal if Congress had been actually taking those things seriously from the getgo. If the "limited times" were actually limited in a meaningful way -- only for enough years as is necessary to establish an incentive for scientists and artists to continue creating -- it would be much less worrisome for copyright holders to exercise the kind of control they've been granted.

    • if someone copies your movie (with or without hacking it), how would you battle them in court?
      How do you battle anyone who has reneged on a contract with you and has more access to lawyers than you? There is nothing particular to IP here.
  • by Ckwop (707653) * <Simon.Johnson@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @05:51PM (#15701645) Homepage

    At the bottom of most of Slashdot's pages it says:

    "All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective owners. Comments are owned by the Poster. The Rest © 1997-2006 OSTG."

    Since the copyright to each post is owned by the posters and the editors quoted entire posts verbatim, I doubt that their use qualifies as fair under US Copyright law.

    It is ironic then that the editors are trying to stoke up discussion on what represents a reasonable limit to copyright while unintentionally demonstrating why the law as it currently stands is horribly broken.

    Just a thought for a Tuesday evening!

    Simon.

    • Excellent comment -- if I hadn't posted already I'd mod up for sure.

      My only problem is with your phrase that copyright is "horribly broken." If it is broken, how do you fix it?

      I know a lot of slashdot/FOSS advocates love Lessig's Creative Commons [creativecommons.org], but to me CC is just another shill for state-destruction of individual rights. In EVERY situation where the law is supposed to protect you (and the "crime" is so easy to accomplish), you will have zero power to protect those rights that the law seems to create.
      • Copyright is dead -- not broken. Copyright is useless and enables nothing; no one creates because of copyright. I repudiate copyright on every single thing I publish in the public eye (blogs, music, video productions, etc). I use the free distribution of information to increase my billable rate for people who want to know more about my trade secrets: I'll write about things I can do, and then charge customers more for the secrets I hold back. That is where the power of creation is: in creating a bigger mark
    • by Jerf (17166) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @06:07PM (#15701755) Journal
      There is an implied license granted to Slashdot when you post to do what Slashdot does. I think you'd have a hard time standing up in court and claiming damages from Slashdot doing exactly what you expected Slashdot to do.

      Could that be a little more bullet-proof? Yes. Does it matter? Not until someone sues them and tries to make this argument. I don't think that's going to be anytime soon.

      Copyright's broken, but this isn't one of the ways in which it is broken.
      • Per Overzeetop's comment, scratch my post. There is an explicit license, although honestly, it sure is hard enough to find...
        • File a bug report :)

          I agree with you -- it should be clearer that Slashdot may display a reader's comment in more than one context. I've requested this, too, but it's one of those things which timewise so far hasn't been high-priority. I'm sure not (yet) a lawyer, but I do think that implied license when posting to a public forum is plentifully sufficient, *really*, but making it more explicit is a good idea. I'll lend you some patience, if you lend me some right back ...

          timothy
    • What part of... (Score:5, Informative)

      by Overzeetop (214511) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @06:07PM (#15701757) Journal
      ...the submitting user grants OSTG the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable, non-exclusive, transferable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, and display such Content (in whole or part) worldwide and/or to incorporate it in other works in any form, media, or technology now known or later developed, all subject to the terms of any applicable license.

      don't you understand? I mean, it's right there in the terms of service [ostg.com] at the bottom of every page, just below the "owners" text you quoted. ;-)
    • Broken my ass. (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Abcd1234 (188840) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @06:27PM (#15701895) Homepage
      It is ironic then that the editors are trying to stoke up discussion on what represents a reasonable limit to copyright while unintentionally demonstrating why the law as it currently stands is horribly broken.

      How does this demonstrate that the system is broken? What if I don't want the Slashdot editors to use something *I've* created in order to push their agenda? How is this any different from, say, Microsoft taking parts of the Linux kernel and then not respecting the license by refusing to release the source? A license, I might point out, which is only enforceable due to copyright law.

      The fact is, there are many people around here who like copyright as long they can get what they want for free, preferably under the GPL. The minute someone wants to exercise their rights in any other way, the system is 'broken'.

      Frankly, I think the copyright system, as it stands, is still workable, as long as copyright terms don't get continuously extended. What's broken is the government, thanks to institutionalized bribary, and the laws that were passed as a result, such as the DMCA, which work to break the system entirely by allowing the media cartels to effectively hold exclusive control over their works indefinitely.

      Note, I don't feel the same way about, say, the patent system. Unfortunately, around here, patents, copyrights, and trademarks seem to get mashed together and demonized equally.
  • by MikeRT (947531) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @05:55PM (#15701676) Homepage
    This is no better than a car company banning its customers from modding their cars on the grounds that it distorts their original aesthetics. Funny how the corporatists turn property rights into a mechanism for controlling others rather than as a foundation for individuals to control themselves...
    • Kinda a technical point but this is actually slightly different. If the judge hadn't ruled the way he has, the GPL would be dead. Here is what I see as being the problem. This company is selling a derivative work. They are not modifying an existing work without distribution, they are selling a derivative. Sure, they require you to bring in an existing copy, but they do not use that copy, they give you a new one.

      If they took that copy and modified it on behalf of the owner, and did not distribute the work, o
    • It's not really a question of corporatists trying to control the people - if you sign your name to a document, would you want someone fucking with it afterwards, to make it appear as if you signed something detrimental to your image? That's what this ruling is protecting against, in this case. If Mr. Director directs a film, then some christian guy in the midwest decides he doesn't like something and cuts it out of the film, then Mr. Director no longer directed the film. I certainly wouldn't want my work
  • by i_want_you_to_throw_ (559379) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @05:56PM (#15701683) Homepage Journal
    whether or not you can basically take a knife to someone's work, reshape it to an audience and then make money from it. The answer quite clearly is no.

    This is very important to remember: Your intention in violating copyright law is irrelevent.

    This sword cuts many different ways.
    • actually I think you are allowed to take the knife and make money from it, as long as you don't use too much of the source material and/or you change things enough (I think that's how it works when music artists sample other songs and include them in their own). IANAL, so if anybody knows exactly how this legally works in the music arena I am all ears...
    • So, I presume it's also wrong to modify any code. Hell, we should just chuck out the whole "open source" movement. I mean, making any mod eradicates the artistic intention of the original author.

      Yeah....

      Taking a movie that may be a fine and intriguing movie but have one small scene and eliminating it is not the end of the world. And if you've already bought the DVD, it should be within your right to NOT view such.

      Titanic is a great example for me. The stupid scene in the back of the car cheapened the whole
      • So, I presume it's also wrong to modify any code. Hell, we should just chuck out the whole "open source" movement. I mean, making any mod eradicates the artistic intention of the original author.

        Open-source licenses generally explicitly allow the downstream user to alter the work, provided certain requirements are met, such as preserving copyright notices and licenses, so your point falls flat.

        And if I had a 9 yr old kid. I'd probably like to pass on the scene as well.

        It was rated PG-13.

      • Except that the ruling made it clear that it is fine for YOU to do that. The problem is when I make an edit, and then sell it to YOU.
    • "whether or not you can basically take a knife to someone's work, reshape it to an audience and then make money from it. The answer quite clearly is no. "

      Spoken like somebody who's never heard of a "hot rod". The answer, quite clearly, is "Yes, yes you may take the Ford frame you found in a junkyard, refurbish it, do whatever you want to it, make it sparkle, and sell it for many tens of thousands of dollars."
  • by ReverendLoki (663861) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @05:58PM (#15701698)
    You know, it seems to me that the Clearplay DVD player mentioned above could become popular, but only if those outside of Clearplay can generate the necessary filters. I can't help but think that there's a market for a DVD player that can skip everything else and play JUST the naughty parts of a DVD...
    • Sir, I don't know whether to mod you "funny" or "insightful".
    • That comment was probably meant to be funny, but it makes me think... what if somebody created a Clearplay-like technology for DVRs? It would be a great way to skip commercials. All it would take would be 1 person to upload a list of start and stop timecodes for the commercials in a given show, then everybody else downloads the list of timecodes and watches commercial-free. You'd have to make sure everybody's recording was synced to the same start-point, but otherwise it'd be trivial.
      • It was meant to be funny, but that wasn't the whole of it. I was actually thinking of the "special edition"of Showgirls that came out a while back, which contained an easter egg that, when triggerred, cycled through all the "naughty bits", skipping the rest of the film. Not a lot of loss on that one, I feel.

        Anyways, I hadn't considered using it to skip commercials... that would really take some good synchronization. To perform it reliably, you'd probably have to get your DVD player to sync on some comm

    • Or make "Director's Cut" version of a film that doesn't mean "extra long" or "butchered to fuck". I thought The Village was a perfect example of a poorly cut film. If the director had watched some hitchcock before going into editing we would have gotten a totally different film.
  • by rjstanford (69735) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @06:01PM (#15701713) Homepage Journal
    Money is beside the point... a copyright holder has every right to choose how a work is distributed.

    Have you ever seen an artist make a collage? You know, cut up portions of photographs, text, whatever and incorporate them into a new creation (assuming that they purchased them in the first place, that is)? Well, this ruling takes a big step towards forbidding that in the future. Hell, ever purchased a pair of used jeans that weren't exactly in brand-new condition, maybe were missing a piece or two? Nope, that'll be illegal too.

    Am I taking this to an absurd conclusion? I hope so, but think about it for a minute. Heck, let's go back to the original comment, as it relates to movie distribution. Let's say that Lucas releases Star Wars again, but this time it will only play on THX-certified stereos. After all, if he's allowed to forbid you from editing it (after purchasing a copy), isn't he also allowed to forbid you from "editing out the sound" that he thinks you'd get from an approved stereo system? Now what if you replace THX with Windows, is that still okay? Same legal issue, methinks.

    Beware the slippery slope.
    • by Vellmont (569020) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @06:56PM (#15702093)

      Have you ever seen an artist make a collage? You know, cut up portions of photographs, text, whatever and incorporate them into a new creation (assuming that they purchased them in the first place, that is)? Well, this ruling takes a big step towards forbidding that in the future.


      Exactly how is taking a movie and editing out a few minutes of it while keeping the rest anything like a collage? A collage uses multiple sources and bears little resemblence to any single one of the works used in the collage. If you want a valid analogy, look no further than the music sampling world. Fair use means you can take short parts of the song without violating copyright. It doesn't mean huge portions that resemble the original work. There were multiple lawsuits over this in the 80s/90s. See Negativeland being sued by U2 for an example of a derivative work. Negativland lost (settled out of court) and copies of the album were destroyed. The song was largely similar to the original U2 song. On the other side there's all kinds of music that has samples in it that are small enough to not be a deriviate work, so no one ever bothers suing. There's a gray area in-between, and that's where you'd see court rulings that would effect what's fair use and what's a derivative work. This lawsuit is nowhere near that gray area.

      What's happening here is nothing at all like a collage. It's quite obvious it's a derivative work, and distributing it therefore violates copyright law.


      After all, if he's allowed to forbid you from editing it (after purchasing a copy), isn't he also allowed to forbid you from "editing out the sound"


      Why are there so many people that make this out to be a limit on what you can edit and view yourself in the privacy of your own home? These companies were DISTRIBUTING this content. That has nothing to do with making your own version of Star Wars and taking out the sound.
  • Well then.. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by GmAz (916505) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @06:03PM (#15701724) Journal
    Well then, lets see what the movie companies think when the people that buy the clean version of the movie quit buying the movies all together and they start to lose revenue. Its a person's choice to watch a movie or not if it offends them and if they can't watch a clean version of it, well then they just won't watch it. Will this be a lot of revenue. I don't know, but but I bet it will make a small dent.

    • Well then, lets see what the movie companies think when the people that buy the clean version of the movie quit buying the movies all together and they start to lose revenue. Its a person's choice to watch a movie or not if it offends them and if they can't watch a clean version of it, well then they just won't watch it. Will this be a lot of revenue. I don't know, but but I bet it will make a small dent.


      Maybe it will, but it has to be a larger dent than the cost it would take to edit a new version, ship it
  • It is a violation of "artistic moral rights" to select specific posts and re-present them according to an agenda that was not part of the original posters' vision.

    As your attorney in this matter, I recommend that you all sue.
  • In all this hubbub, people failed to notice that a competing form of "editing out the naughty bits" digitally, ie, simply skipping over the deleted scenes as requested by the user *while watching the dvd* was deemed perfectly legal. The difference: the original movie content is still there for someone who wants to watch it uncensored, but the act of censoring it to one's tastes is trivial.
    • You know, if it walks like a duck, and quacks like a duck...

      What it really comes down to is selective enforcement. By making everything unlawful, the power that be can cherry pick the "violations" that suit their agenda or revenue stream. Convenient for them, but not for the general population. It's all about the golden rule, and I'm not talking about the one that has a "thou shalt not" in it.
  • Well, here it is: can copyrighted works be modified and redistributed without explicit permission by the copyright holder? The court says no, I agree in this case.

    I don't see why we should allow someone to use copyrighted work of others to make money without first getting permission from the holders of the copyright.

    There are many people who believe copyrights must be abolished, I disagree with them, but I agree that the copyright system maybe in need of a reform. Copyrights should apply within a limited
    • Lets remmember the point of the copyright privlidge.
      To keep people from claiming your material. It had nothing to do with 'artistic vision'.
      Also, it did not deal with media that could easily be altered.

      With current technology, the copyright privlige needs some changes to deal with new technolgy.

      For example:
      We should allow content altered DVDs if it is clearly marked, the original credits are given, and who did the editing.
      If I purchase a disk, I should be able to make an edited version and sell it along wit
      • by roman_mir (125474) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @07:02PM (#15702131) Homepage Journal
        Lets remmember the point of the copyright privlidge. To keep people from claiming your material. It had nothing to do with 'artistic vision'. Also, it did not deal with media that could easily be altered. - well, copyright deals with distribution of material, and this is where the case in question fails. They are redistributing modified copyrighted material for profit without a license from the copyright holder. It doesn't matter whether this is done for artistic purposes or any other purposes. At the end it is done to make money on other people's work.

        We should allow content altered DVDs if it is clearly marked, the original credits are given, and who did the editing. - we should allow what with content altered DVDs? Should we allow distribution of content altered DVDs without permission from copyright holders? I don't think so. Whether you changing your DVD content and using it yourself falls under fair use or not, I am not sure, but I am certain that noone can legally take a DVD, modify its content and redistribute it without permission.

        This case is not about someone modifying their own DVD and using it, it is about a firm that redistributing modified content for profit without permission.
    • Okay, so can you create a business out of modifying novels? You purchase a container of the latest blockbuster novel, then sell it to your readers. If they check the box on the order for that says "sanitize," you drop the book in the san-o-matic and it applies white-out to the objectionable parts and prints some alternate text, cuts out a few pages, pastes in a couple extra pages, puts a "Santized by the Purity Book Club Company" sticker on the jacket and then boxes it up for shipping.

      Aside from the inabili
      • Okay, so can you create a business out of modifying novels? - certainly. As long as you get a license (permission) to do so from the copyright holder.

        If you just want to distribute copyrighted material, you get a vendor's license, whatever that is, but I am certain that a vendor's license does not allow distribution of modified content.

        The company in question is already breaking the current copyright law even if they simply COPY the DVD and resell it (even if they destroy the original!) forget about modifi
  • by Abcd1234 (188840) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @06:14PM (#15701816) Homepage
    Not that that should be terribly surprising. Despite the summary stating that "others welcomed the decision as appropriately respecting the intent of those who made the original movies", not a *single* comment was referenced which took this stance. What about this comment [slashdot.org], which is one of many that points out that this ruling can be considered consistent with existing copyright law, which holds the right to create a derivative work as exclusive to the creator. Or this one [slashdot.org], which points out that the derivative work rights assigned to a copyright holder are what give the GPL it's teeth.

    But, hey, it's a lot more fun to editorialize, in this case by selectively choosing user comments in order to manufacture a perceived concensus.
    • This is exactly what I was thinking. I read the article, and I was confused to see these important points weren't summarized at all.
  • This new format for backslash is an interesting idea. I haven't decided if I like it or not yet. If the editors are reading, I do have one suggestion though. Could you file all the backslash articles in the backslash section? One of the excellent features that you guys have added recently is the per-user settings on what stories get displayed on the front page, and whether they are in full or abbreviated form. However, it is only usefull if the stories are properly catagorized. While backslash stories will
  • by JimBobJoe (2758) <swiftheart@gmail ... m minus math_god> on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @06:17PM (#15701829)
    A studio sells a normal R-rated version of a film for $20 on DVD. It decides to sell a censored PG version for $30 (it's a niche market, people are willing to pay more for the censored version.)

    An outfit in Utah comes along, buys a copy of the $20 R-rated version, edits it to PG level, and sells it for $25.

    The studio is out $5, and it's an easy to argue copyright violation.

    Now my issue is that the studios are not taking advantage of their full copyrights and issuing the PG version. I feel that if they don't after a few years, they should relinquish those rights and let the company in Utah innovate appropriately (by buying the $20 DVD and then editing it.) It'd really only take a law to change, and in today's political environment would be an easy sell to Congress.
     
    • Or just fix the technology and have, built into players, ClearPlay-like functionality. Allow a person to insert a separate memory card or something that provides an edit list which can be used, along with the original content, to provide a modified viewing experience. Users could then purchase EDLs from a third party, or better yet, create EDLs themselves and post them online. Voila, problem solved without having to modify copyright law, which, IMHO, doesn't need to be tinkered with for this one special
  • howto: AviSynth (Score:2, Informative)

    by ben there... (946946)

    Something similar could probably be put together fairly quickly using programs like Avidemux or VirtualDub for those who don't mind distributing the work of classifying and sharing the necessary edit-decision lists.

    This is really simple to implement using AviSynth [avisynth.org], if anyone wants to try it. Just install that, an MPEG-2 (DVD) codec, and AnyDVD or DVD43 to decrypt the DVD on-the-fly. Then create a text file called myscript.avs with this code:

    # Combine all the VOBs.
    a=DirectShowSource("E:\VIDEO_TS\VTS_01_1

  • I don't see why they can't slipstream it so from the menu, the viewer can select the "edited" version.
    Heck, they (DVD's) do have the functionality to do multi-angles (mainly for p0rn) and the "follow the white rabbit" icons (easter eggs), and such allowing for almost endless combinations without requiring those combinations to be statically stored.
    Some creative menu/content layouts should be able to this just fine.
    And since the original content is on the disc, it should be a non-issue as it's just like usin
  • by Thagg (9904) <thadbeier@gmail.com> on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @06:23PM (#15701869) Journal
    At the end of this feedback summary, the Clearplay solution is mooted.

    The studios purport to be every bit as unhappy with Clearplay as the re-recording service providers that were the subject of this lawsuit. They are currently suing Clearplay in the case Huntsman v. Soderbergh/a? which is pending. [eff.org]

    You can read all about it at the linked EFF site.

    Basically, the arguments are almost all exactly the same -- except that the copyright issue is obviously different as there is no copy being sold. With Clearplay, you buy or rent the regular disk, and the Clearplay-supplied DVD player and service skips the naughty bits. The directors filing the lawsuit complain that their names and trademarks are applied to a "created" movie that is not their original movie -- and they are attempting to use trademark as well as copyright law to fight Clearplay.

    From the pace that this case has been proceeding through the courts, it's going to be a very long time before it is resolved.

    Thad Beier
    • I'd say there's an easy solution to this problem - you just move to a community model. The company makes money selling the player, with an open patchlist format. The community writes their own patches. I know that the money is in services and all, but there's a lesser amount of money with a more feasible business model in selling the devices. I think. Eventually someone will do it in some Free/free software and bingo! The service would die.
  • Who decides? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by ortcutt (711694) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @06:23PM (#15701872)
    These discussion of whether the studios release their own expurgated versions of movies are totally beside the point. The question is who gets to decide what gets edited. Maybe some copyright-holders make terrible decisions on how their works should be edited, but that is their choice. It certainly isn't the right of some third-party like Cleanflix to decide how a movie is edited. I also don't see how what this has to do with fair use. This doesn't relate to what the viewer of a work can do non-commercially with his or her own copy of the movie. This has to do with a for-profit company making money by making edited copies of someone else's work and selling those copies.
  • It's appalling that this case could get so far through the legal system in the first case. This is a clearcut copyright violation:

    1. The "re-editors" don't have permission to redistribute their modified copies.
    2. They can't claim fair use priviledges since they are distributing copies which represent a substantial portion of the entire work. i.e. they are not distributing brief excerpts being used for satire or scholarly analysis.
  • Historically, copyright law used to protect derivitive works, you know.
  • of Mister Falcon has no fairy godmother.

    Give MEE the keys!
  • by Zelucifer (740431) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @06:36PM (#15701962)
    I think the point that the vast majority of people are missing, is that at it's essence, this third party company is creating a derivative work For Profit. If this was a non-profit group, such as a church this would be 100% legal. However, editing a work in any way makes the current iteration of the production a Derivative and that changes the copyright statutes and precedents that apply to this. Think about it this way, what's the fundamental difference between removing scenes from a movie and adding them? With the latter, you have the possibility of a satire, or parody, yet even with that you do not have the right to use more then a few minutes of the original, if any at all, even in a not-for profit production. The issue would be different if, the defendant were to take the dvd that had been purchased by a consumer and edit that specific dvd, yet the simple action of buying (or acquiring through other means... specifically former trade-ins), involves a transfer of licenses, not just a service. In affect, the trade-in is actually a new purchase (the cost being your old dvd and the money), which is where the illegality comes into play.
  • Ugh (Score:4, Interesting)

    by tnk1 (899206) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @06:49PM (#15702056)
    I dislike this decision, but I think I see why it was decided in this way. A copyright holder has some right to not only make money from their films, but also to grant licenses to who they choose. Part of that licensing structure is how they protect themselves and their works from being altered in a way that they did not intend and at the same time the altering person makes money doing that.

    Let's say that you were a director and released a fairly hum-drum movie about life in the 'hood. You would probably have some violent scenes in there, where people of various minorities were vicious criminals. At the same time, you show how people of the same minorities are trying to fight back against gang violence or whatever. Indeed, that's the point of your movie.

    What happens when someone's Neo-Nazi cutting service takes your movie and figures out how to cut out the sympathetic parts so that it almost turns into a modern-day Birth of a Nation? Then, they market the 'altered' version in much the same way that this cleaning service market's their services.

    Now, technically, you got paid for what turned into Birth of a Nation II, but now your work, and your actors' performances are now on the Aryan Nation's hit parade. What if, due to the clever editing, your movie ends up being a more popular Neo-Nazi parapaganda film than it ever was before editing. Well, guess what? You're fucked. Your movie and actors are being clucked about on Oprah. I'm sure she'd be all upset that your well-intentioned movie was mangled in this way, but in the end, you're the guy who made Birth of a Nation II, or Triumph of the Will: The Next Generation.

    I think there needs to be a careful line drawn about that can be done professionally. I agree that this service is probably completely harmless, and I HATE the fact that the studios are probably simply looking to make sure they *they* are the ones who make the money from any sanitizations done, but they have a point. Its probably something that needs some better definition within copyright legislation.
    • Re:Ugh (Score:3, Interesting)

      by asuffield (111848)

      What happens when someone's Neo-Nazi cutting service takes your movie and figures out how to cut out the sympathetic parts so that it almost turns into a modern-day Birth of a Nation? Then, they market the 'altered' version in much the same way that this cleaning service market's their services.

      Actually, they could make a case for this being legitimate. Since they are not reproducing your product, but are instead creating something new, it is 'transformative'. That means it is possible to classify this as f

  • Most people strongly supporting this decision seem to have the delusion that it applies only to (as per the FP title) "Naughty bits".

    NO!

    Instead, imagine Star Wars I through III with every scene containing Jar-Jar, or both Anakin and Padme, completely cut out! Poof, it goes from utter crap to a decent (if not as good as the original trilogy) watch.

    Or for another angle on it - Mix CDs. This decision basically reduces to outlawing mix CDs. Now, I don't think I've ever made a RedBook mix CD, but imagin
  • Linux (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Lehk228 (705449) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @07:50PM (#15702374) Journal
    if the court had gone the other way, the GPL would be fucked

    each copy of linux would be aquired legally then modified and resold, perhapse loaded with DRM or otherwise corrupted, and since the company no longer needs permission to resell legally aquired but modified works the GPL would have no teeth

    this was a good decision
  • by anwyn (266338) on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @09:31PM (#15702776)
    This decision is based on the same principle that powers the GPL: The right to control Derivative Works! The GPL could not control the terms licences of derivative works without the basic right to control derivative works!

    Besides, authors do not necessarily write only for money. Without the right to control derivative works, anyone can come along and butcher your work which was intended to be a thing of beauty!
  • Reading the case (Score:3, Informative)

    by illuminatedwax (537131) <<ude.ogacihcu.inmula> <ta> <egnardts>> on Tuesday July 11, 2006 @10:22PM (#15702979) Journal
    Reading the case: http://www.joegratz.net/wp-content/uploads/2006/07 /CleanFlicksDistCtOpinion.pdf [joegratz.net]
    A summary:

    • Clearflix removes the DVD encryption (against DMCA)
    • Their "fair use" claim rests on the fact that they are "criticizing" the movies they are censoring. I really don't buy that.
    • This is a good quote:
      They seek some comfort in language appearing in the opinion deciding Chicago Bd. of
      Education v. Substance, Inc., 354 F.3d 624 (7th Cir. 2003), that the privilege protects public
      criticism and may justify substantial copying of that which is being criticized. The holding in that
      case was an affirmance of the denial of the fair use defense under summary judgment standards.
      Ironically, Judge Posner wrote that a teacher does not have the right to publish the criticized tests
      indiscriminately "any more than a person who dislikes Michelangelo's statue of David has a right
      to take a sledgehammer to it." Id. at 630. Or, as may be more aptly said in this case, to put a fig
      leaf on it to make it more acceptable for viewing by parents with young children.

    • Definition: "transformative" - contributing to a larger body of work, for example, using a few quotes from one source to create a larger essay of your own. A previous court case which the judge cites says tranformative means it "adds something new, with a further purpose or different character, altering the first with new expression, meaning or message."
    • The defendants say that their copies are "transformative" in the name of criticism and deny that their work is a derivative work. The studios say that it is a derivative work and say that they are not transformative. Looks like most here on Slashdot agree with the studios. The judge provides other examples and (I think correctly) decides that the works are not transformative.
    • The judge rejects the one-to-one argument because he claims it interferes with the copyright owner's right to control the content of the copied material. Personally I think he's right: if I give you a book to rent, I don't think you should be able to change it and rent that. It's very much like the djb software style: you can distribute it BUT DON'T TOUCH A SINGLE LINE OF CODE IT'S THE BIBLE AS FAR AS YOU'RE CONCERNED. No argues that software license do they?
    • The judge ruled that the works are not covered under fair nor are they derivative works.
    • The defendants tried using the "first sale" doctrine which makes no sense
    • The judge says the loss of the defendant's business has no bearing on the case.
    • Therefore the defendants lose.

    Personally, I think if you compare this with software licenses, it makes perfect sense.

"But this one goes to eleven." -- Nigel Tufnel

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