The battle to offer clean versions of Hollywood movies to faith-driven consumers is getting even messier. ClearPlay, a Salt Lake City-based company, disclosed on Tuesday that it is no longer offering filtered versions of new releases through its streaming site.
A rival company, VidAngel, first noticed that the company had quietly stopped offering new releases, and drew attention to it in a news release. VidAngel has been fighting against the Hollywood studios, which claim that its service violates their copyrights. ClearPlay, which won a similar battle with Hollywood more than a decade ago, has been offering filtered versions of new movies through Google Play.
In December, the studios won an injunction ordering VidAngel to shut down. In that order, Judge Andre Birotte steered affected customers to ClearPlay, noting that the site operates with the studios’ blessing. Neal Harmon, the CEO of Provo-based VidAngel, said the discovery that ClearPlay is no longer offering new releases demonstrates that the industry is not open to filtering.
“There’s a federal law that says you can stream filtered movies,” Harmon said in an interview. “But today, there’s absolutely no way to do so. The studios got what they wanted.”
ClearPlay had not previously announced the issue with new releases. Customers who complained that they were having problems got this response from tech support: “We are currently having a technical issue with streaming new titles. We are working on it and hope to have it fixed soon.”
In a statement released Tuesday, ClearPlay CEO Matt Jarman said the issue would be resolved “later this year.”
“ClearPlay filtering continues to work with streaming content available through Google Play, except for new release movies. We have been relying on certain programming interfaces that are no longer available through Google Play. ClearPlay filtering will be available for both catalog and new release movies with a major streaming service later this year. The studios have been clear throughout our competitor’s litigation that they do not object to lawful filtering services.”
Meanwhile, VidAngel is turning itself into a distributor of clean theatrical releases while it fights the legal battle over its streaming service. The company announced today that it will release “Tim Timmerman, Hope of America,” in select theaters in Utah on March 3. In the release, the company touted the coming-of-age comedy as “too clean” for Hollywood.
“We have hundreds of thousands of passionate users who currently have a dearth of family-friendly content,” Harmon said. “Those people are excited for this movie.”
Following its theatrical run, the film will be available on the VidAngel site.