Edited Movies

How to Get Edited DVDs

The people who make feature length films - Hollywood, the studios and the directors - have been making 'edited' versions of films for years.

They create edited versions so that the formatting will go from letterbox to a standard television size. They create edited versions that are edited for content so that movies originally released in theaters will pass the strict censorship rules of the FCC, and be able to be seen on broadcast television. They create edited versions for generally viewing on long airplane rides -- after all kids are in those seats and some parents might not want their children been exposed to foul language, violence or adult situations -- and for those with the foresight to preclude their minor from renting the headphones, they would still be exposed to nudity and sex scenes. And, of course, most recently the studios have been creating "unedited" versions or "director's cut" versions of theatrical release films which leave in some scenes the director felt fulfilled his vision better, or in many cases versions where the editor was forced to cut some scenes for the film to make a rating of PG, PG-13 or even R as rated by the motion picture association of america (MPAA).

Around the time that DVDs with their massive storage capacity started allowing studios to sell 'unrated' cuts and 'director's' cuts of popular hollywood movies to fans, an interesting sub-culture sprang up on the complete other end of the spectrum.

Increasingly, fans with more conservative tastes started attending more and more family films, and movies with more 'traditional' or wholesome messages and less violence, sex, nudity, and obscene language. In fact, in addition to making family films some of the biggest box office winners of all time, there were movies with compelling story-lines with ethical or moral messages and stories with compelling cinematography and historical content which were interesting as educational tools for religious leaders and even public and private school teachers who wanted to show the films as part of their curriculum but were uncomfortable exposing some of the young students to some of the more salacious elements of the film.

In fact, the video release of none other than the biggest box office blockbuster of all time on VHS, Titanic, was such a compelling movie that a lot of people wanted to share the movie with their young children but felt unable to given a scene where Leonardo di Caprio is painting Kate Winslet and she bares her breast for the camera.

At the time, an enterprising young man by the name of Ray Line was experimenting with editing the movie in such a way that he would blur out the nipple on Ms. Winslet's naked breast, much like the studios would in a film that was made for TV, but the scene was critical to understanding the storyline and plot and could not be simply cut completely.


Titanic - The Original Edited Movie

Leonardo di Caprio's nude scene with Kate Winslet created demand for Edited Movies
Leonardo di Caprio's nude scene with Kate Winslet created demand for Edited Movies

Demand for an Edited Titanic Spawns an Industry

When Mr Line showed his creation to some friends they were thrilled with what he'd been able to do and immediately asked if he could create clean versions of the movie Titanic for them and their families their churches and their schools.

As it so happens, Mr Line and his friends were all followers of The Church of Latter Day Saints, or LDS church, more commonly knowns as Mormons.  And something had happened in the Mormon church which was building up demand for clean family focused entertainment.

The Mormon Church

While there were plenty of reasons for conservative Christians, Muslims, school teachers and religious leaders to be concerned about showing inappropriate content to minors via movies, the Mormon church had specifically come out against R rated movies years ago.

One of the church's elders in a statement to the Mormon church had grouped R rated movies as one of the things that was best to avoid in order to live a clean life.  Mormons began looking for alternatives to show their children and parishioners.

This undercurrent of demand is what drove the Edited Movie business in the early days.  Consumers, anxious to eliminate graphic violence, nudity, sexual situations, and cursing from their family movie experiences flocked to Mr. Line and Mr. Line decided it was a good business opportunity to explore further.

CleanFlicks Defines and Industry

Mr. Line created a video rental and sales store where he was sourcing clean, edited, vhs and dvds for consumption by like minded conservative Mormon and Christian viewers.

While there were some obvious legal challenges with what CleanFlicks was doing, they decided to get around any problems with the studios and Hollywood by actually selling the full, uneditedd version of the movies, and only including (for free) an edited copy of the movie alongside the unedited version.  Of course, in the original iteration, the unedited version was stapled into the movie jacket, but by utilizing this model, Hollywood got their cut - the royalty from the edited movies - and the conservative consumer got what they wanted - a clean family friendly movie with the nudity, swearing, violence, and sex removed

The Edited DVD Industry Takes Off

CleanFlicks had been correct in their evaluation that there was an under served market here. CleanFlicks opened several "company owned" stores in Utah and also sold franchisees arrangements where he would supply the edited movies to them in return for a one time franchise fee and some small follow on payments for the edited movies.

Almost overnight, competitors to CleanFlicks popped up with twists on the CleanFlicks brand -- CleanFilms, Clean Flix, Clean-Flicks, Family Focus Films, and lately ClearPlay, an on the fly dvd editing device.

Hollywood, while getting their royalties from the sales and rentals of these edited DVDs had a problem with this arrangement however. And it came down to a matter of artistic control.

Hollywood Moves to Stop the Edited Movie Business

While some of the studios may have been more agnostic and focused on the small amount of money they were making in royalties from this sub-market, the director's responsible for the movies which were being re-edited, outside of their control, were less than amused.

The Director's Guild and several of the studios moved in Federal Court to stop the unauthorized editing and distribution of movies by CleanFlicks and virtually all of the companies which had sprung up to meet demand.

In 2006, the US Federal District court of Colorado found that CleanFlicks and all of the companies which had opened up to supply consumers with edited movies either for sale or rent or subscription models were operating illegally and without consent of the studios.

CleanFlicks Closes Its Doors

CleanFlicks and the rest of the Edited Movie Industry was shut down almost overnight.  As part of a negotiated settlement agreement, the edited movie industry agreed not to appeal the ruling and was given time to liquidate existing inventory over the holiday season of 2006-7.

In the wake of the prohibition on distributing edited videos a lot of built up demand was being left unsatisfied.  Companies like familyediteddvds were put out of business and decided to reveal their secrets for editing dvds so that interested families could do their own DVDs for family friendly viewing.

Legal Loophole in the Edited Movie Ruling?

Almost before the ink was dry on the settlement agreement with the studios and the director's guild, some of the companies began operating again in what they felt was a legal loophole.

A former CleanFlicks franchisee opened Clean Flix and Cougar Video began selling edited videos for the "classroom" under a fair use exemption in the existing copyright protection for educators and schools.

The studios at last check had not responded to this threat to their settlement agreement as the number of conservative Christians and Mormons who home school their children is quite large and could lead to quite a few unauthorized sales and rentals of edited dvds.

Clearplay Uses the Law For a Monopoly

Meanwhile as the legal battles over legal distribution and viewing of edited movies raged on, some enterrpising entrepreneurs from Texas started lobbying a congressman to push through legislation that would give clearplay a near monopoly to serve this under served market.

Clearplay works slightly differently that the traditional DVD editors.  Clearplay had a law passed which differentiates based on the fact that a flim is edited 'on the fly' and the content is left unmolested on the original DVD.

The technology works by having a user download files on a pc and moving the files to a qualified DVD player which will skip or edit any of the objectionable material.

The problem is that at times the edits can be somewhat amateurish and it is a monthly fee for having access to the library of new releases.  So the user has to pay twice -- once for the dvd itself and again for the editing subscription.


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Comments 5 comments

Jason Martin Schlierman 5 years ago

As one who has tried to get into this fight, I really enjoyed your article. I'd love to see ClearPlay tech improve and be sold inside DVD and Blu Ray players that are more mainstream, like Sony, Zenith and Samsung.

For years those who complain about "sanitized" films have said that the people behind them are trying to tell them what they can and can not watch. Actually, it is very much the opposite. I don't get why there is even a fight? How would my watching a film like say "The Dark Knight," sans the violence, mess up someone else' day? Seems like they are trying to tell me and other what to do and how to live...


aventinus7roma@lycos.com 5 years ago

I think that every movie should have two versions which you can purchase, both an unedited and an edited one for the family. For instance as to the movie "The Bible" it's unedited version was very long. I would love to see it come out unedited as a mini-series and they can use as many dvd's as they need to sell it. The same goes for Franco Zeffirelli's 1968 version of "Romeo and Juliet." That movie was really great and the totally unedited version should be released for purchase. And this should be done with all of the great movies and musicals!!!


bob 4 years ago

I will buy when they make Blu ray players


Rosa 21 months ago

that, there's probably no easy way aunrod it while still protecting creators' rights.By the way, my bringing up the DMCA was only incidental. This ruling, as far as I understand, was not based on the DMCA, though it probably could have been. In any case, the DMCA is widely regarded as an affront to fair use.The idea that this is a case of Hollywood pursuing liberty and happiness reminds me of . I think they'll find themselves empty.


Sophie 21 months ago

39 out of 40.. not too shabby. it helps that we have the same movie pehctanns. Well, except for Jaws and Jurassic. I only like to sit on the edge of my seat at movies because I am laughing so hard,that I may have to vomit, and cannot decide whether to run to the bathroom or just use the popcorn container!

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