Bill Hunt $.02 on The Bits - 9/23/02 column DGA/Moviemask etc

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by derek, Sep 24, 2002.

  1. derek

    derek Second Unit

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    As a long time supporter of Bill Hunt and The Digital Bits I am disappointed in the recent promotion of their opinion regarding the situation involving the Directors Guild of America and MoveMask/Cleanflicks etc. I feel Mr. Hunt has missed the focus of the argument and also has set a double standard with regard to their take on home theater viewing.
    Mr. Hunt states initially that ‘Editing a movie without the filmmaker's knowledge, permission and supervision is absolutely, unconditionally and completely wrong.’ There is no clarification here…but I would assume the argument would be in conjunction with the RESALE of the movie. The whole suit has NOTHING to do with resale of the movie just the editing services of a consumer purchased and owned media copy. If not, Mr. Hunt is telling the consumer that we cannot modify the contents of any media we own (VHS, DVD, book, magazine) etc. in our own homes. I can’t cut and splice a VHS tape or audio cassette. I can’t have my kids cut photos out of old magazines. I couldn’t throw various pages of a novel through the paper shredder. Yet these items are solely my property. Why should government tell me what I can do with them?
    Secondly Mr. Hunt and the Digital Bits have always championed the cause for the consumer in deciding the best presentation of home theater media. Yet, his argument against MovieMask, TVGuardian and the like completely goes against what he has preached. Surely Mr. Hunt wouldn’t argue against someone putting up masking material for a pan and scan movie release to improve the perceived viewing aspect ratio? Or how bout using a special stretch mode on your new widescreen TV to view non-anamorphic releases? Nor would he argue you couldn’t use your FF button on your DVD remote to skip an objectionable scene or the mute button to mute objectionable dialog. Yet each one of the options is ‘altering’ the original intended viewing ‘desires’ of the director/studio. However by criticizing MovieMask and the like he is arguing for banning all of the above! That the consumer does not have the rights to alter the PRESENTATION of a film at home. We’re not talking editing the content of the DVD in any way, shape or form. We’re talking about changing the PRESENTATION for the desires of the home theater enthusiast. I feel Mr. Hunt needs to review exactly what his cause is pursuing and make clarification because in my opinion it goes against what The Digital Bits has championed since its inception.
    As a sidenote I’m disappointed in Mr. Hunt’s tone and use of profanity in his public column. This lack of professionalism is uncharacteristic and clearly hits at the respect The Digital Bits has been striving for all these years in the online home theater community.
     
  2. Matt Wallace

    Matt Wallace Second Unit

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    I can only assume by your posting of your opinion here at this public forum that you are soliciting for others to either join you or get a discussion going, so with that I proceed.
    I'm totally with Bill Hunt on this. The issue isn't if a person can edit their own property. The issue is if a company can edit copyrighted material and repackage it for their own profit. This isn't covered in the first sale doctrine that we, as retailers, use for the rental business. At least, that's the argument being put forward. I have no problem with someone taking home a VHS copy of The Matrix or even a DVD copy, editing it for their personal use, and watching it. Or not. BUT, for a company to do so is wrong. They don't have the permissions to do so. When you buy an edited CD at Wal Mart or where ever, you do so because the record company has issued it as an artist approved, officially-licensed modification. They know how they are being represented. The filmmakers in this circumstance don't have that luxury, and they should. How about if you prepare a report for your boss or a product for your customer in your profession and then have a third party modify it before it reached the boss/customer without your prior knowledge? If MovieMask/Cleanficks wanted to provide the service that they are being sued for, they should have done it the right way and recieved the proper clearances first. Right now they are making money on a different version of a film that they produced using intellectual property they haven't paid for or recieved the rights to use. That's wrong - both legally and morally (which is ironic, as it's the supposedly better moral people that founded this company and keep it in business).
    As far as how Bill Hunt decides to conduct himself.. it's his site. I've been there since '98 reading his stuff and watching his site grow. During that time, I've never once seen him pull punches, yet his readership grows. Why? Because he's being himself and real. To be honest, I only go there for his reviews and for his .02 editorials anymore, as I can usually find out about any release coming down the pike from this site or my retail contacts before I can there. But, as I just said, he has other things to offer there. I'm going there for my own personal reasons, just as you do. If your needs change, so do your destinations. And, really, Bill's tone the past 12 months has really been very adult. His latest "digital rant" should come as NO real shock to anyone who's been faithfully reading for the past year.
    As far as "viewing desires" as you called it, that's not the plight of The Digital Bits column. It's about editing a film without the director's knowledge (for business or public presentation purposes), not about how you view the film at home. I have no doubt Bill could care less if you bring the DVD home, use it as a coaster, while watching the VHS version in nothing but a pink thong! That's your right, once you purchase it. Fast forwarding a movie or muting audio doesn't even fall in-line with what we are talking about as an issue. These things are done by the consumer after they own something, not by a business pre-sale.


    To each their own,

    Matt

    "Surely Mr. Hunt wouldn’t argue against someone putting up masking material for a pan and scan movie release to improve the perceived viewing aspect ratio?" - No one would do this. Either a widescreen version would be bought or that P & S would sit on the shelf at the store.
     
  3. Jonathan Burk

    Jonathan Burk Second Unit

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    I think the issues raised by the DGA action are complex, and anyone who has strongly made up their mind either way doesn't totally understand the issue, or the industry. I especially liked this report at the IMDB:

     
  4. Bill Hunt

    Bill Hunt Insider
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    Matt,

    You hit the nail right on the head. As an artist (be that a filmmaker, a musician, an author or what have you), when I create a piece of art and make it available for the public to enjoy, I'm crafting a personal expression... a representation of my perspective. It doesn't matter that film is a collaborative art - someone has to make the key creative decisions that shape the viewpoint of the film. The artist should be allowed to have a reasonable measure of control over their art. By that, I mean that any changes that are made to the art should under the control of the artist. Most filmmakers have no problem allowing the creation of full frame or airline or TV versions of their films, and most recording artists have no problem with edited or remixed clean versions of their music. They may not like it, but they understand that in the practical world, it's necessary. So they do it. But THEY HAVE CONTROL of this.

    For some second party company to alter works of art (be they films, books, records etc) and then sell those altered works for profit to the public is just wrong. Even though Movie Mask software doesn't physically alter the film on the disc, it does involve that creative alterations are made to the viewing experience. And Movie Mask is making money by doing this.

    Look... no one can stop you personally, in your own home, from scanning a book into your computer and rewriting it as you please. And no one can stop you from editing a film on videotape, or mixing a new version of a song. Why you would WANT to do these things, I would never guess but no one can stop you. But if you then take that altered version and resell it without permission of the artists, making a profit in the process, that's wrong.

    Everyone forget your personal beef against Hollywood for a moment - that Us vs. Them mentality. I hear a lot of people talking about "my rights as a consumer". Doesn't the artist have any rights anymore? At The Digital Bits, we argue on behalf of consumers all the time. We believe that the industry absolutely needs to respect your rights and needs. But that respect has to go both ways, folks.

    I'm not even gonna address the profanity issue...
     
  5. derek

    derek Second Unit

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    Cleanflicks and the like are NOT altering works and reselling the altered works for profit to the public. They are selling an editing service…to be used on a personally owned copy of a dvd/vhs video. By the reasoning mentioned above “no one can stop you” from editing a personally owned copy of a media work...so I don’t see the problem. You may not personally agree with their choice…yet the Digital Bits disagrees with supporting the option of having this choice.
    Similarly with MovieMask/TVGuardian etc. To me you are telling your readers that they cannot enjoy the viewing experience as they deem fit. Is this arguing on behalf of consumers? Let me propose a few thoughts and questions. Are you against equalizers in home theater systems? Are you against THX post processing or pseudo EX setups? The user is modifying the audio experience to fit his/her desires….not the directors or studios. Where do you draw the line? I don’t have a center channel or subwoofer…yet I can’t listen to my DVD because it’s not what the directors intended audio experience was? If I watch a 4x3 non-anamorphic DVD in stretch mode on my widescreen set or zoom or use the FF button I’m not watching what the directors/studio intended visual experience was. The point is someone cannot sit on the fence and say ‘this modification to the viewing/audio experience is ok yet this one is not.’ In my opinion by taking this stance the Digital Bits is going against their longstanding support of consumer rights. Denying any options for enhanced home theater viewing experiences that are important to the individual consumer is a clear step backward.
    I wish the person who came up to you at the DVD event with a serious question about edited movie versions got a more supportive answer. It would be nice if The Digital Bits would respond, investigate and work with studios to help satisfy consumers requests regarding this issue. I’ve been waiting for the Bits to take up the initially promised/touted DVD feature of seemless branching with edited cuts much like they did with DIVX, anamorphic widescreen and HD-DVD. Alas…the home theater community in general and the studios in particular have ignored this request from members of the consumer buying public. Their lack of response coupled with improvements in technology/cost has allowed the issue to trickle down into the consumers hands…and ultimately that is where it should be.
     
  6. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    Given the inherent controversy and volatility of a subject such as this editing-for-content device, I'd say you're being a tad combative, Derek. Mr. Hunt has made his point, and you've made yours. End of story.
     
  7. oscar_merkx

    oscar_merkx Lead Actor

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    Derek

    I read your "rant" about Moviemask and have to disagree with you on this. Like Matt I agree with the issues that Bill Hunt of the Bits has raised as being absurd and making money out of this. I enjoy his .02 cents rants and the reviews that keeps growing (I am anxiously awaiting his Comic Con DVD report) ever since I found the site in 1999.

    I have 3 words that would sum up my opinion about this

    Only In America
     
  8. Joshua Clinard

    Joshua Clinard Screenwriter

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    I agree with the original poster. There are too many movies being made today that are great movies, but they simply have too much language, sexual scenes, or violence. Not everyone wants to see that. Even most of the so-called family films have language in them. Yes, the Arlines and Wal-Mart have liscenses to edit movies and music. We want that same choice to see movies with less violence and language. But the studios have not given us what we want. We shouldn't have to turn to these 3rd parties to edit movies for us. When DVD was originally announced the ability to have an "Alternate Rating" or "Parent Approved" version of a movie on the DVD was touted as a special feature. The studios have yet to use that feature, and that's why these 3rd parties are popping up. Consumers are demanding it. When Titaic came out in 97 there werwe thousands of people who purchased it from a web site from two people who pioneered the VHS tape editing buisiness. I cannot find the site anymore, if anyone has the link let me know.
     
  9. Jimmy Nugent

    Jimmy Nugent Stunt Coordinator

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    Actually, you can- I went outside on my lunch break and did it. Wasn't the least bit dificult.

    Jimmy
     
  10. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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  11. EugeneR

    EugeneR Second Unit

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    Legally speaking, it doesn't appear to be a real difficult issue. Unless specifically granted, no one has a right to modify intellectual property and then re-sell it for profit. It is completely different if a consumer modifies something in their home; the consumer has the right to do with a product, be it intellectual or any other kind, as he pleases. That right is the one that must be protected. But resellers don't have those rights.

    Should we do this with books too? A cleaned-up Henry Miller? A politically correct "Uncle Tom's Cabin"? A consumer can tear pages out of the book he purchased to remove offending prose. A bookstore cannot do the same.
    What if we go the other way? Should someone have the right to take say a film produced by a religious organization to teach children about the bible, intersperse porn clips for kicks, and sell that? Intellectual property is different from other products because the physical medium only embodies the product and is not the product itself. I absolutely support rights of consumers and I do not want the studios telling me what I can and cannot do in my own home. However, that does not mean that creators and owners of intellectual property should have no rights whatsoever. I'm with Bill, and with the studios on this one.
     
  12. Joshua Clinard

    Joshua Clinard Screenwriter

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  13. Peter Apruzzese

    Peter Apruzzese Producer

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  14. Steve_Tk

    Steve_Tk Cinematographer

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  15. Jack Briggs

    Jack Briggs Executive Producer

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    If it looks like censorship and it sounds like censorship, then it must be ...

    As Peter noted, if certain types of films or films with certain types of content offend you, then your argument is with the filmmakers and the studios. In the meantime, don't go see them or purchase them on DVD. And I very clearly see the studios' position regarding these odious "services" and devices.
     
  16. Brian McHale

    Brian McHale Supporting Actor

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    It seems to me that the legal aspects of this should be pretty simple. Right now, if you want, you can edit music for your own personal use, edit video tape for your own personal use and can edit books for your own personal use.

    Before the age of CD-R, I used to occasionally edit commercial music on cassette (for musical taste reasons, not moral objections). More recently, I have edited commercial songs on my computer and burned them on CD. I've never edited books or movies, but there's nothing stopping me from legally doing so, as long as it's for my own personal use.

    Where you run into trouble is when you want to alter one of these art forms and then rent or sell it without authorization. This is clearly illegal.

    Personally, I am not offended by nudity and profanity,though I'm not always crazy about the violence. I have never edited any commercial movies myself, but if someone wants to do that they should be allowed to, as long as it's for their own use.

    What about the artists' rights? What about "Art?" Once you get it home, your are legally allowed to do what you want with it, regardless of what the artist thinks. This is the law!

    If a company alters a work of art and then tries to resell it, that is illegal. If a company sells you something that makes it easy for you to alter art that you own, and for your own personal use, that is legal.

    You can argue the rights and wrongs all day, but the legal issues seem pretty clear to me.
     
  17. BrandonG

    BrandonG Agent

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    I totally agree with Peter on the subject of objectionable content. Let me give an example that I used with parents who wanted edited music at Best Buy...

    When you buy an edited cd from Wal-mart, they take out all of the curse words, but the content remains unchanged. If an artist sings a song about sex, the songs is still about sex, without all the cussing.

    This worked all the time, because the parent would give a classic look to their child and I knew the kid didn't like me very much. One of the few moments I actually enjoyed working in retail.

    I also agree 100% with what Bill said.
     
  18. Joshua Clinard

    Joshua Clinard Screenwriter

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    I agree that in most cases if a film is rated R, there is no reason for the movie to be edited. If the language and/or nudity is removed, it is still an objectionable film. A lot of the movies that these services are offering are not realy made any less offensive by removing the languague or nudity. The content of the film is what makes it offensive in the first place.

    When I mentioned Titanic, I was just giving an example of a film that many people purchased in edited format. I wasn't really offended by the nude scene. I was playing Devil's Advocate. That's not to say I am never offended by anything. I am offended by stong profanity. I am offended by unneeded sex or violence as well. But the scene is Titanic is not one of them.

    What I was referring to, are films that have good stories, but use a lot of inappropriate language. And beleive me, there are many. My mother gets a lot more offended than I do when it comes to language. Almost every time we watch a film together, she comments that it would be a much better film if it were not for the language. A lot of times the languague is just there. It's not needed. A lot of times it does not even fit in with the plot. I think they put it in there because they think they have to. That's what I wish would stop. It's almost like they think people won't watch it if it doesn't have a certain number of curse words in it. That's just not true.

    And now, I'm starting to repeat myself, so I will stop. I have said my bit.
     

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