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Sony Will Let Directors Opt Out of Clean Versions

The studio’s family-friendly initiative got swift pushback from Hollywood

After actors and directors including Seth Rogen and Judd Apatow blasted Sony’s “Clean Version” initiative, the studio said Wednesday that it would not include films in that plan without directorial approval.

In a statement, Sony said it thought it had received the go-ahead before launching the initiative, but it would accommodate wishes by any directors who did not want their films to be part of the program.

“Our directors are of paramount importance to us and we want to respect those relationships to the utmost,” Sony Pictures Home Entertainment President Man Jit Singh said in the statement. “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.”

Sony announced “Clean Version” last Tuesday, which includes the airline or broadcast cuts of films at no extra charge when customers buy certain Sony films on iTunes, Vudu, and FandangoNOW. Included in the initial 24 films are all of Sony’s “Spider-Man” films, both “Ghostbusters” movies, “Captain Phillips,” “Step Brothers” and “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.”

That announcement was met with jeers from several Hollywood A-listers, including “Step Brothers” and “Talladega Nights” director Adam McKay. Judd Apatow, who doesn’t have a movie included in the “Clean Version” list, said the studio could “shove the clean versions” somewhere the sun doesn’t shine. The Directors Guild of America even weighed in Monday, saying Sony’s initiative violates the guild’s contract with the studios.

“Directors have the right to edit their feature films for every non-theatrical platform, plain and simple,” the DGA said in a statement. “Taking a director’s edit for one platform, and then releasing it on another — without giving the director the opportunity to edit — violates our Agreement.”

The guild released another statement after Sony’s Wednesday announcement, crediting the studio for “acknowledging its mistakes.”

“While we’re pleased that Sony is acknowledging its mistakes in this area, the DGA has notified Sony that it expects the immediate removal of all ‘clean’ versions of the affected films from availability until Sony secures permission from each and every director, and provides them with an opportunity to edit a version for release in new media — consistent with the DGA Agreement and the directors’ individual contracts,” the statement said. “These are hard-fought for rights that protect a director’s work and vision, and are at the very heart of our craft and a thriving film industry. As we have throughout our history, we are committed to fighting the unauthorized editing of films.”