The Washington Post tells the story of Ray Lines, a film editor whose job is to “sanitize” DVD releases of major motion pictures for squeamish viewers. Hollywood is up in arms, citing copyright violations and censorship. Both sides have asked for a court ruling to clarify the issue.
No one is quite sure how many sanitized films are sold and rented each year, but it appears to be a growing segment of the DVD market. Lines claims to have pioneered the business in 1999, after a neighbor asked him to edit “Titanic” on his home editing equipment. Since then, the field has expanded, with companies such as Family Flix, CleanFilms, Flicks Club and ClearPlay, all of which are based in Utah. The businesses started by catering to the state’s socially conservative Mormon population, but have expanded beyond that.
The dispute is, in some ways, less about money than a clash over social values and control of a creative product. “A lot of people are just really tired of what’s out there,” says Sandra Teraci, who runs Family Flix with her husband, Richard. “They’re tired of turning on the TV or renting a movie and constantly being hit by violence, profanity and nudity. A lot of people want to go back to the 1950s, before this sort of thing was routine.”
Rather than harming Hollywood’s bottom line, sanitizers say, they’re helping to expand it. Since the sanitizers buy a new original copy for every DVD they alter, the studios don’t lose a sale or royalties when a film is edited. Typically, the sanitizers buy an original copy of the movie, edit it on a computer, then send an altered copy, plus the disabled original, to the customer. The movie studios actually profit, says CleanFlicks’ Lines, because many customers wouldn’t rent or buy an unsanitized DVD.