Re-edited films have existed for several decades for broadcast television and on airlines. Since the advent of VHS films being readily available in the mass consumer market, some consumer groups have asked films studios to make the airline version of films available for wide release.
Purchased film content is downloaded onto an editing work station hard drive and third-party editors manually re-edit the video and audio tracks, removing objectionable content. The re-edited version is then copied onto media (VHS or DVD) and made available for rental or purchase provided an original version has been purchased in correlation with the re-edited copy. Some manual re-edits are done by fans (see The Phantom Edit) to cut a film to their own -or their peers- specifications.
Although the recent court ruling prohibits business from manually re-editing commercial movies, the law still allows for individuals to self censor and edit their own movies for personal use.
Programmed re-editing occurs when software (such as that employed in a DVD player) is used to skip portions of the video and/or audio content on-the-fly according to pre-programmed instruction sets which are knowingly used by the consumer.
When DVD technology emerged, the re-editing industry began offering for sale or rental a disabled DVD accompanied by a re-edited version of the film on a coupled DVD-R. Several companies attempted this business. First, some tried to do it via physical brick and mortar stores, the most successful being the deal model and proprietary stores owned by CleanFlicks, Inc. of Utah. CleanFilms later became the largest and most successful company in the business by employing an online rental model (similar to Netflix) and avoiding any physical stores. CleanFlicks and CleanFilms were sued with several others and a federal judge in Colorado ruled that the companies were violating copyright. Those named in the lawsuit ceased renting and selling edited movies. The legal argument was that the editing resulted in a derivation on a fixed media. At all times, for instance, CleanFilms sold edited movies with a legitimately purchased original copy. Furthermore, every rented unit in edited format had a corresponding original copy that was purchased at retail. The judge ruled that the fixed media caused the violation. ClearPlay was not affected by this ruling.
The lawsuit started because a CleanFlicks franchisee in Colorado pre-emptively sued major directors. The franchisee feared the directors were going to sue because the DGA's website said as much. The Directors Guild of America and the Motion Picture Association of America counter-sued and also included several edited movie companies for copyright infringement and claims regarding derivative works. In 2006, Judge Richard P. Matsch of the United States District Court for the District of Colorado ruled that it was a copyright violation to distribute re-edited movies without the consent from the movie studios (key was the fixed media aspect of the businesses).
ClearPlay was sued by the DGA and MPAA, but the case was rendered moot by the The Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005, which clarified that ClearPlay's filtering approach was legal and did not violate copyright law. As a result, ClearPlay has been able to offer its products to consumers in the U.S. while others have discontinued for legal reasons.
Another aspect of re-editing comes with consumer made edits, which are called fan edits (or fanedits). It is when consumers load the movies into their computers and use video editing software to produce mostly a version with changed content for their own entertainment. Fan edits are becoming more popular since they are spread over the internet.
Surprisingly, there are numerous companies continuing to sell edited movies on the Internet. A simple Google search for "edited movies" will list several purveyors. It seems the studio effort to stop this movement is not eliminating the availability of edited movies.