DGA Responds and Counterclaims Against Robert Huntsman and CleanFlicks; Adds Motion Picture Studios to Suit

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September 20, 2002

Los Angeles (September 20, 2002) – The Directors Guild of America (DGA) today filed an answer to the lawsuit filed against sixteen of its director-members by Robert Huntsman and CleanFlicks of Colorado, L.L.C, as well as a counterclaim to the lawsuit. The answer and counterclaim were filed in U.S. District Court in Denver, Colorado.

In addition, the DGA also asked the Court:

  • To allow the Guild to "intervene," thereby enabling the DGA to represent the interests of its entire membership;
  • To allow the Guild 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 allow the Guild 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 sixteen 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 film altering entities 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. In the counterclaim, the DGA states that these entities are in violation of the Lanham Act, which is 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.

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

"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 continued. "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.

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 website, 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 currently offers software filters for over 150 DVDs and according to its website adds approximately 25 titles per month. The software instructs the DVD player when to skip over or mute portions of the film in order to filter out specific content. ClearPlay is offered on a monthly paid subscription basis.
  • Family Shield Technologies is the maker of a product called MovieShield. MovieShield consists of three separate electronic devices: One device is connected between a VCR or DVD player and television set. A second device is portable and is used to transfer specific movie information. A third device is connected to a computer to download information into the transfer device. MovieShield uses a "patent pending" technology to determine which scene is being played in the movie. 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 website, 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 www.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 by to remove "objectionable" portions of the films, similar to CleanFlicks. Family Flix and Play It Clean offer their products via the Internet at www.familyflix.com and www.playitclean.com.

For a complete copy of the documents filed by the DGA and sixteen of its director members see the items below:

You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader in order to view these documents. Download it here.

DGA Communications Department (310) 289-5333