Perspectives on Pop Culture and the Arts

Friday, January 25, 2008

More Cleanflicks

Wipe that wink off your logo!
I've posted a couple of times on the supreme cheekiness of a company touting moral high ground while selling unauthorized and illegal versions of edited movies. However, much to my surprise, owner of the re-opened Orem, UT location of Cleanflicks, Daniel Thompson, keeps pushing the levels of irony to laughable proportions.

It seems that the mole in charge of illegally cutting movies in the sweaty basement has also had a few side activities that wouldn't become one so bent on cleanliness. Daniel Thompson and Isaac Lifferth have both been booked into jail for paying 14 year-old girls for sex acts.

Although, after the courts ordered them to stop doing business the first time, they did change their name from Cleanflicks to Flix Club... hmmm. I guess it's not so ironic after all. My bad.

Anyway, the undernourished staff writers here at Boast have been working all afternoon (their sleepy-time) on new names for the next time someone decides to continue this silliness:

FlixXx Club
The Club (for private members... you know *wink*)
Prison Flix, or Flix Prison (we're a bit undecided on this one)
A club for guys who watch hours of sex and violence frame-by-frame.
Jim Cunningham's Heroes

It can always get worse/better (choose one).

[Link to the KSL article]
[Related Boast articles here, and here]

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Blogger Sidemoss said...

No links? I was hoping that you had links set up on get worse/better...

The idea of cleanflicks is so hypocritical to me. It just reeks of the Mormon world trying to keep up with the Joneses. Hey! If you don't want those movies in your life, don't watch them at all! The tone of the movie is going to be there throughout, no matter what they take out.

That gives me an idea. I need to blog about this, so that my thoughts can be more clear and less/more random (choose one)

12:23 PM

Blogger Fletch said...

Love the pic of the Boast staff. Great post, and worth the wait.

12:32 PM

Blogger Jon said...

I vote for Jim Cunningham's Heroes.

5:43 PM

Blogger Mike said...

@Sidemoss - sorry about the lack of links there... our research staff got side-tracked trying to find some red label Flix Club videos on Youtube.

I agree with what you say. I feel that there is a level of appropriateness particular to the individual. I also strongly feel that maintaining those standards defines a person's conviction and the nature of their beliefs. Censoring the medium is simply a convenient way to redirect blame toward the artist rather than the viewer (i.e. "They put all this bad stuff in movies"). This isn't living what you believe, it's just whinging... not to mention, illegal.

@Fletch and Jon - you guys are the bomb.

11:06 AM

Anonymous JB said...

For the record, Daniel Thompson, nor the other gentleman charged had any direct affiliation with CleanFlicks. A press release with more information can be found at www-DOT-freecleanflicks-DOT-com. It explains the lawsuit that has been filed on behalf of CleanFlicks against Daniel Thompson and helps to clarify who the founders of CleanFlicks are, and what the lawsuit entails.

11:18 AM

Blogger Mike said...

Thanks JB for, uh, setting the record straight. You don't by chance work with Ray do you? Choose your friends wisely.

9:02 AM

Anonymous luke said...

I honestly never understood what the big issue was with CleanFlicks. I'm no huge fan of censorship (or Mormonism, for that matter :) ), but it just doesn't seem like that huge a deal to me. In the case of CleanFlicks, the studios (and therefore the directors) were still getting paid for the movies, the movies weren't being presented to the viewers as the originals, and the films were reaching an audience that they wouldn't have reached otherwise. How was any of this a problem?

It seems to me that censorship imposed by government is completely different from censorhip done by a private company for a group of consumers demanding it. It's not like CleanFlicks was preventing people from seeing uncensored copies of the films, or even implying that their cuts had the approval of the directors or the studios.

If I were to buy a book, tear a few pages out of it and resell it (making sure the buyer was fully aware that it was missing pages), would the publisher or the writer have grounds to sue me? I can understand not wanting your work misrepresented, but if everyone involved is aware that what they're seeing is a re-edit, what is the problem?

The sex scandals, of course, are both disgusting and unsurprising. Anyone afraid of an R-rated film is most likely going to be dangerously pent-up.

12:17 PM

Blogger Mike said...

Sorry it's taken me so long to respond. I've just been, um, doing better things.
Luke, I appreciate your interest and dedication (that was quite a lengthy comment, although kind of undermined by your final sentence). However, I'm not sure your analogies are necessarily analogous...

First off, let us understand what CleanFlicks was doing. They were duplicating copyrighted material that expressly stated that doing so was in violation of copyright laws. The District Judge ruled that duplicating and editing movies caused "irreparable injury to the creative artistic expression in the copyrighted movies" and mentioned that there was a public interest in preserving this expression.

Secondly, you suggest that this practice was allowing the films to reach "an audience that they wouldn't have reached otherwise." The product, as it was produced and released, was NOT reaching a wider audience since it was being manipulated and was therefore not the product that was intended for sale. To say that an edited movie is the same movie is technically incorrect, and is what the studios/filmmakers and the courts have an issue with. Also, the only reason the film wasn't reaching the wider audience in the first place was because of their own philosophy and choice not to watch movies rated R by the MPAA. To alter someone else's copyrighted material just to increase your sales niche is what CleanFlicks and edited movie stores were doing... without permission.

You say that "censorship imposed by the government is completely different from censorship done by a private company for a group of consumers demanding it." You might want to research the definition for the word "censorship" as I don't think it has a contextual clause that varies depending on who is doing it. And what is the government if not an institution that responds to another group's demands, be it one person or a larger group acting collectively? Censorship is censorship. When imposed by the government, it's sinister and frightening. When acted out by the public, it's just stupid.

As for your book example... do you read books?

10:04 AM

Anonymous luke said...

Whoa, I sensing some hostility here? "Do [I] read books"? Um...would you like to see my English degree?

Seriously though, I think you misunderstood my previous post a bit. I am of the opinion that CleanFlicks is categorically a bad idea; I simply don't understand where, exactly, Hollywood got the idea that they had grounds for a lawsuit.

To my understanding (please correct me if I'm wrong), CleanFlicks would legally purchase a copy of DVD, then dub the censored version over it. In other words, they weren't "duplicating copyrighted material," they were simply altering it. Hollywood studios censor themselves all the time--to get on TV, to get into theaters (most won't show anything rated NC-17), etc.--pretty much whatever they think will make the most money. The film industry isn't exactly a bastion of artistic integrity.

Again, with my censorship comment, you've misunderstood me. What I was saying was that the government can (theorhetically) prevent people from seeing a certain film if they choose to censor it, whereas CleanFlicks had nothing even resembling this power. They weren't trying to prevent people from seeing the uncensored version of Pulp Fiction; they were merely making a censored version available to people who want it. If you don't want the censored version, you're more than welcome to go to Blockbuster, Netflix, or anywhere else.

What's confusing to me about this is that if I watch a DVD at home and skip over a sex scene (or anything else) that's fair use, but if someone skips over it for me (even if I ask them to), that's a copyright violation. I wouldn't watch the CleanFlicks version of The Departed and assume Scorcese's directorial intent had been preserved, nor would anyone else. To assume the contrary is simply ego run mad.

Once again, I dislike CleanFlicks as much as anyone else and will not mourn it for a second--but I can't help but suspect that all the raging against it (up to and including the lawsuit) is more of an excuse to sit around and hate red-staters than anything else.

2:06 PM

Blogger Mike said...

Luke, I appreciate your comments and that you came back - I think our readership just doubled!

Sorry if I misunderstood, but when you drop a bomb by saying, "censorship imposed by government is completely different from censorship done by a private company", and leave it at that, I can only go by what you've written. Please feel free to take your time, make your point - I promise I'll read it all. Too often, I think, people writing on the web get hasty (all them new fangled technologies), at the sacrifice of making their point/argument clear.

And please allow me to clarify; if I'm being hostile, you'll definitely know it. My intention wasn't to be hostile toward you, I was just being sarcastic and elitist - after all, we have a name to live up to. The book remark was only a (slightly bating) question. If it made you uncomfortable I apologize. Although, you have now crossed the line on both religion and politics in civil discussion ("no fan of Mormons", and red-stater haters). Considering the volatility of these kinds of jabs, I think my book comment in relatively good taste. And, unless I'm interviewing you for a job, I don't care what kind of degree you have.

My point here isn't to get into a fighting match à la Uwe Boll (who, lets be honest, really isn't Michael Bay), but to further the discussion of issues that really are quite complex. That is, of course, not to say that we don't have our personal opinions on how things should be, but that we - as civil and intelligent blog-savvy dorks - can articulate more of the issue than what normally appears in your typical imdb forum [omg, cleenfliks is teh worst EVER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!] [Deleted by administrator because of stupidity]. We can do that. With everyone's help. I'm just here to further the discussion. Think of me as the choir teacher in The Chorus, or Jaime Escalante, or someone sweet like that; the hard-nosed teacher who everyone hates at first because of his unorthodox methods but soon loves because he creates a bit of conflict and drives the narrative.

Enough with the narcissistic crap and on with the discussion!

Actually, duplication is exactly what Cleanflicks did. As a good little journalist, I entered a CleanFlicks store a few years ago and asked the young clerk at the counter,

ME: "Do you have some magical software that just erases the bad parts from DVDs for customers?"

CF: [Laughs] "No. We rip it to our computers, watch the bad bits frame-by-frame, erase them, and then burn a 'clean' version to a DVD-R for resale."

ME: "You realize you're going to go to Hell for this, right?"

CF: [Laughs] "No. We rip it to our computers, watch the bad bits frame-by-frame, erase them, and then burn a 'clean' version to a DVD-R for resale."

ME: "O-Kay."

I talk through my butt about a lot of things, but this one thing is true: they duplicated the DVDs (or did in 2004).

You make good points about Hollywood (the business) making changes in their own work to fit a particular marketing profile. It's a big fat conundrum, and one that extends to television, airlines, and educational versions. Although, I think the reason the stink is made has more to do with the fact that the owner of the copyright, Hollywood (the artist), is making the changes to their own work. As petty as it may seem in the Hollywood vs. CleanFlicks case, this is the reason copyrights exist - to protect the integrity of the work and the artist. And in my tiny little shriveled heart, I agree. As a photographer, writer, creator, I want some kind of guarantee that some well-intentioned monkey isn't going to mess with my stuff for profit. Which is also why I'll never censor/delete your comments on my blog even if I don't like them (but please don't call me bad names, people, my mom reads this).

I agree with your clarification on the government censorship thingy and people's rights regarding what they can get and watch. But, again, it just comes down to the copyright of the work and CleanFlicks as a business has a certain legal code that they have to abide by and the demands of the marketplace don't change that. If the studios don't lay the smack on companies breaking this law, there will be no end to it and professional arts will just become another open-source wiki full of youtube video mash-ups.

You are right on track with my thinking with your comments on distribution and ratings, although I wouldn't say that the studios "censor" themselves since they are making changes in their own creative work. The big issue here is [drum roll]... the MPAA! As you point out, ratings do affect distribution and profits. It's one of the biggest problems with mass media in the US; the system is designed to make people dumber (i.e. lowest common denominator) rather than challenge and inspire. But this is a topic for another time :)

Thanks for your comments.


8:59 AM


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