In a twist to the movie-filtering wars, ClearPlay, which offers streams of Hollywood films with potentially objectionable content blocked, confirmed that it has been prevented from providing new filtered titles through Google, even as competing VidAngel fights an injunction against its own service.
In a statement Tuesday, ClearPlay co-founder and chief executive Matthew Jarman said: “ClearPlay filtering continues to work with stream content available through Google Play, except for new movie releases. We have been relying on certain programming interfaces that are no longer available through Google Play.”
Jarman added that he expects to offer both new releases and catalog titles through “a major streaming service later this year.” He did not name the service or provide details.
VidAngel’s method of filtering films — by selling and then buying back a sanitized DVD, in effect creating a cheap rental — was blocked by an injunction issued by Judge Andre Birotte Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Los Angeles. In a ruling issued December 12, Birotte noted that ClearPlay had apparently managed to filter films using legally authorized streams via the Google Play service. “An injunction in this case would not prevent VidAngel or any other company from providing a filtering service similar to ClearPlay’s, and thus wouldn’t negatively impact the public interest in watching filtered content in private,” Birotte wrote.
But on Tuesday, VidAngel said it had learned that ClearPlay’s filtered streaming option was “secretly shut down” by Google code changes in early September, shortly after it posted the availability of Sony’s Ghostbusters as a filtered stream. “New information reveals that there is no way anyone can filter and stream Hollywood movies today,” Neal Harmon, VidAngel’s chief executive, said in a statement.
Jarman’s confirmation of the shutdown came in email response to queries based on the VidAngel assertions. The ClearPlay website continues to offer for sale Blu-ray players with a filtering option. Newer titles like Jack Reacher: Never Go Back and Sully have been posted by ClearPlay for use on its Blu-ray players, but without a streaming option.
A query to Google’s press center drew no response.
Birotte’s injunction came after Disney, Lucasfilm, Warner and Fox accused VidAngel of violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by breaking the digital locks on discs in order to provide filtered versions of films to its users. VidAngel argued that the Family Movies Act gave it latitude to open the films, so that users would be able to watch them, as intended by that law, without experiencing unwanted nudity, violence or profanity. That ClearPlay seemed to have found a way to filter films then became a factor in Birotte’s ruling, which is being appealed by VidAngel.
“Even though the Family Movie Act clearly authorizes filtering for family viewing, no new movies or television shows can be filtered and streamed to families by anyone or by any means,” VidAngel said in its statement.