Police in Utah recently arrested 31-year-old Daniel Thompson for paying 14-year-old girls $20 each for oral sex. At Thompson’s business, police found a cache of pornographic films “along with a keg of beer, painkillers and two cameras attached to a television.” Such stories aren’t representative enough to inspire much in the way of commentary, but here’s the flavor of hypocrisy about it: Thompson’s business is selling the “clean” parts of the film with the naughty bits cut out.
This sounds more than a bit like the argument CleanFlicks company from a few years ago, and it’s not for nothing. In fact Thompson has resigned as the operator of CleanFlicks, although in reality, he has little to do with the company. When news of his arrest broke, papers and blogs began reporting a link between Thompson and CleanFlicks, with some even claiming he was the company’s founder.
The problem: CleanFlicks is still in business after its demise at the hands of Hollywood, and it sells unedited versions of family-friendly movies. Given the terrible bad press surrounding the Thompson case, CleanFlicks went on a PR campaign to clear his name and also filed a federal lawsuit against Thompson.
When CleanFlicks sold its brick-and-mortar stores several years ago, Thompson’s father bought a couple and gave them to his son to work … when Thompson got out of prison for security fraud. In retrospect, this is not a great idea, but you have to feel for the father who tries to help his son go straight, only to be rewarded with stories of booze and porn.
Daniel Thompson is the manager of the two stores, which continue to operate under the name “CleanFlicks”. CleanFlix, which had stopped offering edited movies after losing a federal court battle in 2006, told Thompson to stop using his name. Thompson renamed his stores to “Flix Club” and continued to edit films.
But Thompson apparently continued to use the CleanFlicks name in his marketing, even using the MySpace page http://www.myspace.com/cleanflicks.
In wake of Thompson’s bust, CleanFlicks has filed a federal lawsuit (a copy of which has been found by Ars Technica) seeking, among other things, $100,000 under the Cyberpiracy Prevention Act. He also wants at least $1 million for voluntary use of the company’s trademark.
CleanFlicks too launch a website to clear up the confusion and ask all “journalists, bloggers, and media sites” to correct any inaccurate information that has already been published. The industry’s response has been strident, but that’s to be expected; CleanFlicks announced its new business model in January, only to see its launch marred by terrible PR a few weeks later.
A copyright-related side note to this issue: Thompson has continued to edit movies at Flix Club because he says a “doctrine clause” in copyright law makes the act legal if it’s sold to schools and universities. While the copyright law lacks some important provisions related to films for educational programs, FlixClub’s actions seem unlikely to have passed in court.
The whole scheme unfolded after the mother of one of the 14-year-old girls asked her daughter where the new $20 bill came from. The answer (“Working for a guy behind the scenes—and a store full of drugs, Mom”) landed Thompson in trouble with both the police and with CleanFlicks. While prosecutors could throw him in jail, CleanFlicks is looking to spoil it.
Is there any hypocrisy in a company like CleanFlicks once stepping on the copyright of filmmakers and now using the legal system to enforce its own intellectual property rights? We report, he decided.
- Lurid simple explanation courtesy of The Salt Lake Tribune
- Christianity Today has some nice area of the case…
- … as you do USA Today (Both outlets initially reported Thompson as being linked to CleanFlicks; both have since updated their stories)
- If you like your character development a dash of snark, consider DVD Dossier’s writing of the case
- CleanFlicks get online to protect himself
- CleanFlicks lawsuit filed in Utah District Court; If you have PACER access, the case number is 2:08-cv-00086-PMW