Sony Pictures Home Entertainment is reportedly moving ahead with plans to release “clean versions” of many movies and make them available as “family-friendly” digital downloads. This news ruffled the feathers of many both within and outside of the industry, and the opposition was swift. Seth Rogen became one of the first to speak out against the plan, and a statement from the Directors Guild of America questioned the legality of releasing non-approved versions of artists’ work. Judd Apatow agreed, and fired off a tweet claiming SPHE’s scheme is “absolute bullshit.”
At a Wednesday junket for the upcoming film The Big Sick, I had the opportunity to talk to Apatow about this “clean movie” initiative, and asked him to elaborate on his thoughts and the legality of the situation.
“Well, I don’t think it’s legal,” Apatow began. “I don’t think they have a right to do it. When we do an edit for television, or an airline, contractually that’s what it’s for. You’re not allowed to distribute it. It’s a real… [They’re] overreaching. [It’s] disrespectful to the filmmakers, very short-sighted for their relationships with filmmakers. Because it is the equivalent of saying, ‘Oh, we’re going to try to pull the violence out of The Godfather, make a version for teenagers.’ And that is the most important agreement that you have with the filmmaker is you’re not gonna fuck with their work.”
“So I’m pretty shocked by it, and they did not ask for permission either,” he continued. “When we looked into it, there’s no calls or e-mails warning us. So I find it very offensive. I assume that it will get handled quickly. If it isn’t, then I’m sure there are a lot of people who are happy to seek legal action because there’s nothing more important than our work. We see it in the form we want it to be seen in, regardless of the format.”
It certainly seems like the DGA and other creators’ unions will be perfectly willing and happy to fight this battle in the courts, if they need to. If opposition is already this swift and intense, one imagines SPHE’s plans won’t remain on the docket for long.
UPDATE: Sony Pictures Home Entertainment president Man Jit Singh reached out to Uproxx with this comment:
“Our directors are of paramount importance to us and we want to respect those relationships to the utmost. We believed we had obtained approvals from the filmmakers involved for use of their previously supervised television versions as a value added extra on sales of the full version. But if any of them are unhappy or have reconsidered, we will discontinue it for their films.”