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Former Cougar Video owner stunned by edited 'King's Speech' with PG-13 rating

March 05, 2011
source: Deseret News

Photo from Deseret News.
"I can't believe it."

That's what Kirt Merrill said when he heard producers planned to edit "The King's Speech" and put it on the market in a PG-13 format. Five years ago, Hollywood studios threatened to sue Merrill, former owner of Cougar Video in Provo, for doing just that. As a result, his — and more than half a dozen other Utah video editing companies — shut down.

"That is absolutely hypocritical," he said.

The film, which took home an Academy Award for "Best Picture" Sunday, originally received an R rating for a scene in which Colin Firth, who plays King George VI, is pushed by his speech therapist to use profanity in order to overcome his stutter and says the F-word at least 15 times. Distributors' decision to re-release the movie with less profanity has reignited an old debate about whether or not editing a film compromises its artistic integrity.

A federal judge ruled in 2002 that editing profanity, sex and violence out of films caused "irreparable injury to the creative artistic expression in the copyrighted movies." The decision, and subsequent threat of legal action, prompted the shutdown of more than a half a dozen video editing stores in Utah, including Cougar Video.

Read the rest of this story at deseretnews.com

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Comments 14 comments

mudarris23 said...

09:51 AM
on Mar 08, 2011

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This is not hypocritical of the studios. It is their product and thus have the right to do whatever they want with it. You did not have the right to chop up movies as you saw fight to drive profits for your own business. You would not want say...me...to have come along and redone the sign for your store as I saw fight. Would you? That was your business and this is theirs. Additionally, I always found your business repulsive and offensive anyway. If editing movies is ok can I drink non-alcoholic beer? De-caff coffee? Non-tobacco cigarettes? I think you and your buisness was missing the whole point. Don't get me wrong, I am not a narrow minded person. I watch rated R movies. I watch movies that I want to watch. I simply have enough sense not to watch trash. Maybe try and not let the MPAA dictate what you watch. If you want to know how they rate movies watch the documentary, "This Movie Is Not Yet Rated." Ratings are a business and can be bought.

mudarris23 said...

09:52 AM
on Mar 08, 2011

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Yea, I know....I made grammar errors in writing... and spelling errors. Should have calmed down before I wrote.

divegeek said...

10:12 AM
on Mar 08, 2011

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This action does warrant the label "hypocritical", because regardless of what their legal rights may or may not be, the studios' argument against third-party editing of movies was based not on questions of legal rights, but on notions of artistic integrity, that they would not allow their creative staff's judgment to be overridden. In this case, that's exactly what they did. The director, Tom Hooper, publicly stated that he was opposed to editing out the profanity, so by choosing to ignore his wishes the studio is allowing commercial motivations to override considerations of artistic integrity. The only difference is whose commercial considerations are doing the overriding. Had the studios skipped the moral argument and simply made the legal case for their right to control the production of derived works, there would be no hypocrisy. But they chose to couch their objections in terms of artistic integrity, and this studio, at least, has now shown that artistic integrity isn't all that important to them.

katamb said...

10:16 AM
on Mar 08, 2011

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As long as there's money in it for the studios it's ok. Plus they need to make an airline version so they'll buy it. Very discouraging looking for something to watch over the weekend. 90% were R rated. And yet the studios make more money with a maximum of PG-13. Some day they'll learn ...

jkcook said...

11:18 AM
on Mar 08, 2011

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Yes, no one ever whines that the airlines get edited versions.

sewhappy said...

02:35 PM
on Mar 08, 2011

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What's really hypocritical is that they put movies on tv and play them on airplanes and edit them for a certain audience. The television stations and airlines purchase the right to air them and then show them edited. Are they taking away the artistic expression? What is the difference in video stores editing them for an audience who would like to see the movies but wouldn't normally rent or purchase those movies. It isn't necessarily to get monetary gain, but to appeal to and audience who doesn't want to see all the immoral acts and degrading speech or extreme violence. Tell me what the difference is. They purchase those movies at a much higher price than we pay for the right to rent them (or at least they used to). If the movie companies and directors thought about it, they could make much more money by allowing editing. They don't change the story line, they just remove the objectionable stuff and most times make the movie much better. There is a lot of gratuitous sex, language and violence in movies that actually detracts from the artistic expression of the movie.

jacencb said...

02:48 PM
on Mar 08, 2011

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I'm LDS, and a film graduate, and I side first with the free market, and then with the studios on issue/s of copyright law. The CleanFlix (3rd party editing outfits) have good intentions that happen to coincide with my morals, but if members of the church want to be able to enjoy the type of entertainment they'd like to see, they need to I. Produce those productions themselves, II. Speak with their $'s, and opt not to see movies that contain things which they don't find suitable, and/or III. Co-produce &/or support those who are wanting to produce high quality entertainment that doesn't require actors, or crew, or anyone else to do things that would conflict with temple recommend worthiness. - - - The liberty, however, of a writer, or an author to express work/s in their design is a constitutional freedom that has been paid for with blood. Even though my own religious, moral standards are well distanced from those things, nobody has forced me to support a movie that contains profanities - if I'm bored, or not satisfied with the entertainment "the world" is producing, by virtue of the need to be 'self-reliant', or 'spiritually independent', I need to produce my own alternatives. I also have to compete in the real world unless I want to be weakened through cutting corners.

jacencb said...

03:17 PM
on Mar 08, 2011

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Just for the record - the author/s and producers can do whatever they want to their productions - they're the ones who are footing the bills. It's not an outside party's place to alter a screenwriter's / producer's adaptation. - Essentially what I'm saying is - make your own movies if you want them to be the way you want them to be. If you're wanting to compete, don't believe the lie either that you have to include lesser moral standards as being anything integral to your production... The thing/s the "evil" Emperor does in Star Wars have much less to do with him sitting in a chair, and much more to do with giving mandates to kill innocence - he doesn't swear once, nor does he ever really DO anything that would render him 'evil' - - - he wears black and has a ghostly face and he simply appears to have no heart otherwise - . . antagonists don't have to be evil in their real lives.

jacencb said...

03:33 PM
on Mar 08, 2011

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I'm not saying either that there aren't incredibly large doses of hypocrisy by those who tout "freedom of speech" to drop FBombs all over tarnation & then those very same people dismiss you, and tell you to be quiet if you speak another "F" word which is "Faith" - bring up the topic of "Repentance" to some of those people & suddenly their "freedom of speech" ideals move to another planet... I hate that.

fatmormon said...

08:34 PM
on Mar 08, 2011

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jacencb, your comments are some of the most clearly articulated ideas I have seen in a long time on a forum such as this. Thank you for expressing sound judgment so well. I would like to help produce a film project with you. I have a feeling that we could really create something worthwhile.

supersparky said...

12:01 AM
on Mar 09, 2011

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The best way to view an R rated movie isn't to edit it. It's to simply not watch it. If it was full of trash to make it R, then it's highly likely the rest is trash you shouldn't be watching anyway. Oh, the easiest way to "edit" movies isn't to resell the edited movie. Just make a DVD player capable of editing it for you, and download the edit patterns from a server with up to date edit patterns. This isn't reselling a copywrited work, it's merely playing it back in a customized way. This is quite feasible technologically, especially with Linux based firmware.

lady_arndt said...

10:42 AM
on Jun 01, 2011

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Hypocritical? Maybe, but it is THEIR work to chop and re-distribute as they please. What I don't understand is how some people think that some R-rated movies are okay to watch, simply because f-bombs have been removed. Most R-rated movies are not rated such due to language alone. But, to each their own. I however will avoid them completely and stick to my Disney/Pixar flicks.

hello said...

11:35 AM
on Jun 25, 2011

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There are a few different points here: 1) Are they being hypocritical... naw... they're just changing their product for a new market. no problem. 2) Do we have no right to edit something we purchase? Yes, we should. I can modify books or paintings or any other form of art which I have purchased to my hearts content. Afterall i have purchased it. 3) should i be able to pretend that it is the original or to modify without purchase? Nope, that's pretty clearly not gonna work. 3) Can i modify it for someone else? that's the tricky part... they have purchased a legit copy and are requesting me to make them a private modification (to act on their behalf)... i think it would have been an interesting case to pursue but it takes a bit of $$ and time that just wasn't worth it... 4) Is it possible to edit movies to remove poor content and still keep the sense of the movie. Yes. I've certainly witnessed it a few times even with PG or PG-13 where a particular shot or word could easily have been removed without tarnishing the work. 5) DVD-player-time-edits... they're an interesting approach; i find i prefer to not keep the unedited version around in a runnable format, it's too easy for stuff to get mixed up in my house.

thosfran said...

12:07 PM
on Aug 03, 2011

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The PG and PG-13 version of these movies already exist. Unfortunately, they're only available on network TV (with an abundance of commercials) or during airline flights. Why not make them available to consumers who don't need gratuitous nudity or profanity to be entertained. In "The King's Speech", using the F-word wasn't gratuitous because of the focus of the movie, but if that scene had been left out, it wouldn't have taken anything away from the movie.
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