LOS ANGELES: A lawsuit between a video store and the Directors Guild of America (DGA) over the content of Hollywood films - and who should have the power to edit them - is grabbing national headlines, due in part to advance PR planning.
The suit was filed by Clean Flicks of Colorado, a small video-rental chain that specializes in custom edits of popular films that remove "objectionable language or graphic scenes" to make the content suitable for "family viewing," according to a release. Clean Flicks is asking the court to rule that such editing falls within First Amendment rights and fair-use doctrine, and is therefore not a copyright infringement.
The suit was filed as a proactive move against the DGA, which placed a press release on its website prematurely announcing its own lawsuit against companies like Clean Flicks late last month, said Clean Flicks spokesman Peter Webb. When the DGA release was brought to Clean Flicks' attention, the company decided it would rather be a plaintiff than a defendant, and quickly filed its own action. The Clean Flicks suit names the DGA and 12 directors, including Steven Soderbergh and Robert Altman, both mentioned in the DGA's original release. That DGA release has since been removed from the site, but the guild has counter-sued and issued updated communications.
Prior to suing, Clean Flicks devised a PR strategy aimed at publicizing the suit, and furthering a discussion of appropriate content for films, said Webb, whose Colorado-based PR firm was retained to formulate a strategy and handle media relations.
"The day our lawsuit was filed, it was part of the strategy to immediately dispatch it to Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter," he explained.
Outlets such as Entertainment Tonight were also contacted, and Webb did an interview for NPR's All Things Considered.
"Once it hit All Things Considered, the media calls increased exponentially," said Webb. Since then, Webb and Clean Flicks' attorney have done more than 30 interviews, resulting in coverage in The Wall Street Journal, CBS Evening News, and other outlets. Webb said his next step will be to enlist conservative and religious organizations to join the discussion.
The DGA was unavailable for comment.