Fighting for Control: Movie Studios and the Battle over Third-Party Revisions

In this note, the author addresses the copyright implications of commercially editing copyrighted movies to delete “objectionable” mate-rial in an attempt to reduce exposure to sex, violence, profanity, or other objectionable material. Companies such as CleanFlicks, the best-known provider of edited movies, supply customers with “clean” versions of movies using cut and splice editing and digital filtering to remove “objectionable” material. These third-party editors, as the author calls them, argue that the movie studios, which own the copyrights to these movies, should not dictate what people watch in their own homes. The studios, on the other hand, claim that third-party editors violate their copyrights by copying or altering the content of their movies. Following a brief discussion of copyright law, the author analyzes the validity of the movie studios’ copyright infringement claims against third-party editors and whether the fair use defense applies to this dispute. The author concludes that third-party editing likely constitutes copyright infringement.

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