WASHINGTON Moviemakers should opt to offer edited versions of films on DVD so parents can control what they see, some witnesses and lawmakers said at a House hearing Tuesday, but directors do not want to see their work altered from its original state.
One sentence from a July court ruling allowed a Utah company to continue its business of selling technology that helps scrub certain material out of movies while it forced another that sold and rented edited copies of movies out of business.
The two Utah-based film editing companies testified before a House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on the current state of "Cleaning Flicks for Families."
Salt Lake City-based ClearPlay makes technology that can be put into DVD players and televisions where viewers can filter out sex scenes, profanity and violence. This is allowable under law.
"Basically it gives moms and dads the right to watch movies in their homes without the bad stuff," chief executive officer Bill Aho said.
To illustrate his point, Aho showed the subcommittee a scene from the 2000 movie "The Patriot."
In the edited scene, based on Aho's selected criteria on a menu, Mel Gibson's and Heath Ledger's characters watched guns fire and cannons go off as a battle began while the unedited version showed bullets going through soldiers and one being decapitated.
Allan L. Erb, president of CleanFlicks Media, Inc., based in Pleasant Grove, Utah which has been forced out of business said removing the graphic scene did nothing to the movie.
"Hollywood produces extraordinary movies with exceptional subject matter," Erb said. "Sadly, many of those productions are also laced with needless, often gratuitous, content which is not important to the storyline, subject matter, content or impact of the movie."
Erb's described how the Intellectual Property Protection Act passed last year does not allow for any copy of an edited movie to be sold, which he and other movie editors want to change.
But the United States District Court for the State of Colorado in a July 6 decision said that "the appropriate branch of government had the opportunity to make the policy choice now urged and rejected it." So, ClearPlay's video-editing technology remains the only way to edit movie content at home.
Subcommittee Chairman Clifford Stearns, R-Fla., said Erb's company's movies were purchased legally and clearly labeled as edited copy.
"It seems these products simply allow parents to protect their children from inappropriate content without having to wear out the fast forward button on the DVD player or buy more expensive filtering technology," Stearns said.
Erb said it would just be better if Hollywood offered edited versions of its own movies, such as including different rated options on DVDs sold for home use.
"Why is the editor's cut readily available to those who want it, while the edited cut is hardly available to the millions of parents and families who want it?" Erb said. "The demand is there, why isn't the supply? Why are the voices of millions of Americans who live value-centered lives going unheard?"
Aho said he has spoken with directors who do not like to see their work edited for television, cruise ships, airlines or even television broadcast and would likely not agree to create multiple versions of a movie for people to watch at home.
Robin Bronk, executive director of Creative Coalition, an interest group that represents actors, actresses, directors and other artists, said "to edit movies can change their effect or their meaning."
E-mail: [email protected]