The Blessed Version

Let One Hundred Edits Bloom

Which is not necessarily a bad thing, argues Siva Vaidhyanathan, an assistant professor of culture and communication at New York University and the author of Copyrights and Copywrongs: "We're seeing massive empowerment at the ground level, the sort of empowerment that frightens the elite. It messes with artistic integrity, but allowing people to make their own artistic decisions in their homes can only help to deflate the artistic pretensions that guide too much of our gut reactions to copyright."

In its complaint, the DGA charges CleanFlicks and the other defendants with, among other things, false advertising, trademark infringement, and dilution by marketing versions of Hollywood films that are not authorized by their creators. However, legal experts don't believe that the DGA has much of a case. Paul Weiler, a professor at Harvard Law School and the author of Entertainment, Media and the Law, says, "There is a qualitative difference between someone making a whole host of free copies from the original, and someone making changes in a whole host of originals they've bought. [CleanFlicks] bought these copies, and if consumers want to use their computers to edit out something, clearly they have the right to do that."

Should CleanFlicks prevail, an interesting precedent could be established in which anyone can do what they want with somebody else's film or song and sell it to the public as long as there is one paid copy extant for each copy manipulated. The myth of creative control would be shattered, something that would legitimize the creative output of thousands who use the films and music of others as raw material for their own work.

illustration: Douglas C. Cushing

Some sort of licensing system would save everyone a lot of trouble at that point, something CleanFlicks has unsuccessfully proposed to the movie industry. Short of an act of Congress, we're unlikely to see the adoption of the simplest solution to the problem, even though the entertainment industry would make some extra money and audiences would get to see versions of movies or hear remixes of songs created by what would amount to a new class of consumer-producers. Either way, a win for CleanFlicks, which would initially appear to be a victory for censorship, may actually have the unintended effect of striking a blow for a far more radicalized notion of creative freedom.

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