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DGA Strikes Back At Movie Maskers

20 Sep, 2002 By: Hive News

The Directors Guild of America (DGA) countersued a movie masking service today, in addition to filing an answer to the company's request for a judge's order declaring the business doesn't violate any intellectual property laws.

"What these companies are doing is wrong, plain and simple," said DGA president Martha Coolidge.

The trade group filed an answer to the lawsuit filed against 16 of its director members by Robert Huntsman and CleanFlicks of Colorado, as well as a counterclaim to the lawsuit. The answer and counterclaim were filed in U.S. District Court in Denver, Colorado.

Those documents ask the court to let the DGA represent the interests of its entire membership; to expand counterclaims to include other companies that engage or contribute to the practice of editing or altering videocassettes and/or DVDs in commerce; to bring in the motion picture studios as necessary parties, citing their role as the copyright holders of films.

The other entities the DGA motion seeks to include in its counterclaim are Video II; Glen Dickman; J.W.D Management Corporation; Trilogy Studios, Inc., which is the producer and distributor of MovieMask software; CleanFlicks; ClearPlay, Inc.; MyCleanFlicks; Family Shield Technologies, LLC, which is the manufacturer of a product called MovieShield; Clean Cut Cinemas; Family Safe Media; EditMyMovies; Family Flix, U.S.A. L.L.C.; and Play It Clean Video.

The 16 directors named as defendants in the original lawsuit, all of whom will be represented by the DGA, are Robert Altman, Michael Apted, Taylor Hackford, Curtis Hanson, Norman Jewison, John Landis, Michael Mann, Phillip Noyce, Sydney Pollack, Robert Redford, Martin Scorsese, Brad Silberling, Steven Soderbergh, Steven Spielberg, Betty Thomas and Irwin Winkler.

According to the documents filed with the court, the movie masking operations are renting, selling, or distributing versions of movies, which neither the Guild's members nor the studios authorized and which are altered versions of members' works.

DGA asserts the companies and their staffs are in violation of the Lanham Act, a federal statute that prohibits false advertising, trademark infringement, and unfair competition, and has been applied to protect an artist's right not to be associated with an unauthorized, edited version of his or her work.

In addition, the DGA charges the companies with trademark dilution under federal law and unfair competition under California law.

"It is wrong to cut scenes from a film -- just as it is to rip pages from a book -- simply because we don't like the way something was portrayed or said, then resell it with the original title and creator's name still on it," Coolidge said. "It is wrong to circumvent the studios, who are the copyright holders, and the director, who is the film's creator -- all in the name of turning a profit. It is unethical, it is shameful, and the DGA will aggressively pursue these claims."

In its counterclaim, the DGA and its director plaintiffs are asking the Court to grant a permanent injunction to stop the defendants from wrongfully distributing unauthorized versions of feature films that they have edited to remove content and language.

According to the DGA, the following are descriptions of what the defendants are doing:

CleanFlicks sells, distributes, and/or offers in commerce, versions of feature films that have been edited by CleanFlicks to remove portions of the films. Through the cleanflicks.com website, CleanFlicks sells edited videos and DVDs; through the mycleanflicks.com website, MyCleanFlicks rents edited videos and DVDs. CleanFlicks also offers edited videos in its chain of video stores throughout California, Utah, Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Michigan, Montana, Ohio and Oregon. Like Video II, CleanFlicks removes content through cut edits and volume muting. Video II is editing films to offer "E-rated" video versions of new releases, which are then provided to grocery stores in Utah. Corporate record filings and previous news accounts list Glen Dickman as the President of both Video II and J.W.D. Management.

MovieMask, produced by Trilogy Studios, is software that consumers can purchase online then download into their computer. The software "masks" or filters frames either by editing scenes or dropping out language. On the moviemask.com Web site, Trilogy Studios boasts that future upgrades will have the ability to superimpose new images, words, advertising or other material during the playback of the DVD. The software "masks" are currently available for 41 films, though the company says it plans to increase its library on an ongoing basis. ClearPlay, like MovieMask, markets movie-filtering software that can be downloaded from the Internet. The company offers software filters for more than 150 DVDs and according to its Web site adds approximately 25 titles per month. The software instructs the DVD player when to skip over or mute portions of the film to filter out specific content. ClearPlay is offered on a monthly paid subscription basis.

Family Shield Technologies makes MovieShield, a system of three separate electronic devices: One connected between a VCR or DVD player and television set; another that is portable and is used to transfer specific movie information; and a third connected to a computer to download information into the transfer device.

MovieShield uses a "patent pending" technology to determine which scene in the movie is playing. Then, using a database of timing information, MovieShield determines when to mute the sound and/or blank the video screen. The "shielding" is broken into eight different categories. According to their Web site, these categories include: "vain references to Deity; minor language; major language; nudity; sexual situations; immodesty; violence; and gore."

Clean Cut, like CleanFlicks, sells, distributes, and offers, via the Internet, versions of feature films that have been edited by CleanFlicks to remove portions of the films. The videos and DVDs sold and rented by Clean Cut have been edited, without authorization, to remove content they consider "objectionable." Clean Cut offers its products via the Internet at cleancutcinemas.com.

Family Safe and its affiliated entity or alter ego EditMyMovies, rent and sell edited videos via the www.familysafemedia.com and www.editmymovies.com websites. Family Safe and EditMyMovies also offer a software product called TVGuardian, which masks or filters language of movies during their VCR playback, and provide this software in DVD players available for sale via the Internet.

Family Flix, and its affiliated entity or alter ego Play It Clean, sell, distribute, and offer via the Internet, versions of feature films that have been edited to remove "objectionable" portions of the films, similar to CleanFlicks. Family Flix and Play It Clean offer their products via the Internet at familyflix.com and playitclean.com.

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