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Sent on Mormon-News: 19Feb01

By Mark Wright

CleanFlicks' Editing Reviewed in RedHerring

AMERICAN FORK, UTAH -- The business magazine RedHerring looked at the legal status of LDS businessman Ray Lines' CleanFlicks video store in a recent issue, and its article appeared elsewhere, including in the Sydney Australia Morning Herald. Lines' business is controversial and under attack by Hollywood studios trying to protect their product, but Lines says he just wants to give his customers what they want -- clean movies that fit LDS standards.

Many LDS Church members shun all R-rated movies and many with PG-13 ratings, given counsel from leaders to avoid these movies. This presents a problem since many of the movies produced by Hollywood today sport these ratings, thereby preventing many members of the Church from watching the latest crop of movies.

Recognizing this problem, Church-owned Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah used to edit newly-released R-rated movies and show the "scrubbed-down" versions on-campus at the Varsity Theater. This allowed entertainment-hungry LDS college students to watch Hollywood's latest productions without being exposed to sights and sounds that would be deemed inappropriate by their leaders. No more. A combination of potential lawsuits, charges of censorship, and claims of violating artistic expression led to the demise of the edited movies on BYU's campus.

Now, LDS Church member Ray Lines is taking a new approach to the age-old problem of providing popular entertainment to the predominantly Mormon consumers in the state of Utah. Lines has opened a new video business, CleanFlicks, that offers an alternative to the conscientious Mormons that try to stay true to their beliefs.

The premise of CleanFlicks is very simple. CleanFlicks offers edited versions of most of today's most popular movies. This means that CleanFlicks purchases copies of recently-released videos and edits them, removing much of the profane language, overt sexuality and gratuitous violence that typify many new movies. The resulting videos are then made available for rental through Lines two video stores. In addition, if you want Lines to edit your videos, he can do that as well. Lines even has a web site, that offers a way for you to purchase videos and then have Lines ship the edited video to your home.

Given that the population of Utah is approximately 70 percent Mormon, this might seem like the perfect solution to a well-recognized problem. However, it would appear that the jury is still out. It seems that some entertainment lawyers and other legal experts view Lines' activities as illegal, citing violation of copyright and trademark laws.

One industry spokesman, Rob Friedman, the vice chairman of the motion picture group for Paramount Pictures, said that while studios probably had no recourse against the editing of privately owned videos, renting out altered tapes was tantamount to engaging in copyright and trademark infringement.

Not surprisingly, other studio-affiliated lawyers agree. Christopher C. Murray, the chairman of the entertainment and media division of the law firm O'Melveny &Myers in Los Angeles, whose clients include studios, actors and executives, stated that renting out altered tapes without authorization violates federal laws. Mr. Lines, however, says that his lawyer has assured him that he stands on solid ground.

While there may be disagreement about the legalities of operations like CleanFlicks, there is no argument that many people, not just Mormons, would like to watch movies without so much violence, sex and profanity. Mr. Lines is not the first nor will he be the last to try and serve the needs of like-minded movie-goers. It seems somewhat incongruent that Hollywood would object to Mr. Lines efforts to satisfy his customers' taste for less offensive fare. After all, Hollywood regularly provides edited versions of many popular movies for the airlines and broadcast network television.

In addition, Hollywood's justification for producing a steady stream of hard-core R-rated movies is that they are only attempting to "give the people what they want." Perhaps giving the people what they want is only relevant if the people want liberal doses of profanity, sex and violence. Mr. Lines has clearly demonstrated that hundreds of people want something else.

One other thing seems quite certain. Given the tremendous amount of money spent on movies every year, this issue will not go away soon or die of its own accord. The battle for control over content will only intensify as businesses like CleanFlicks gain popularity. CleanFlicks will surely be a target for every studio in Hollywood in the very near future.

Be sure and stay tuned for the sequel.


Cut it out - it's video minus the sex in Utah
Sydney Australia Morning Herald (RedHerring) 3Feb01 B4
By Michael Janofsky


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