Digital technology scares the entertainment industry, and rightly so. Not only are they losing control over the distribution of their products, they are also losing control over the actual product. For example, a backlash against the character Jar-Jar Binks in STAR WARS® THE PHANTOM MENACE (Lucasfilm, 2001) resulted in an underground version of the movie with Jar-Jar removed from the film. Bootleg copies of movies that have not even opened in theaters yet are showing up on the sidewalks of New York, China, and Russia. The entertainment industry is grappling with how to reclaim control over its product and protect its intellectual property against future infringements.
It is against this backdrop that we consider the Clean Flicks case. Should a third party be allowed to edit a movie to remove content the third party finds objectionable? What if the third party is a co-operative of consumers who have similar concerns about objectionable content? What if the co-operative uses their library of "sanitized" movies to attract new members? What if the members want to own their own sanitized version of the movie? What if the people who created the movie, the director, writer, cinematographer, and other artists are not the copyright owners? Do they have any rights regarding the alteration and distribution of their creations, and if so, what are those rights? These are just some of the issues that the Court will wrestle with in the Clean Flicks case.
20 Santa Clara Computer & High Tech L.J. 1045 (2004)