ClearPlay CEO Matt Jarman said his company should have nothing to do with the ongoing legal battle between VidAngel and a slew of Hollywood studios, telling the Deseret News that the company had a lawyer and law professor file a friend of the court brief that disavows VidAngel and its case.
ClearPlay, a Salt Lake City-based company that streams filtered movies, was referenced by Judge Andre Birotte Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of Los Angeles when he issued an injunction against VidAngel back in December. ClearPlay was used by Birotte as an example of a company that edits Hollywood films legally.
“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.
Four Hollywood studios — Disney, Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., 20th Century Fox Film Corporation and Lucasfilm Ltd. LLC — have sued VidAngel for copyright infringement.
VidAngel pointed out earlier this month that ClearPlay’s streaming service had changed and it no longer streamed new movies, suggesting that the company is basically shut down.
"The bottom line is that the viewing public is currently left without a streamed filtering option for Hollywood content in spite of a federal law (the Family Movie Act) guaranteeing that right to customers," VidAngel said in a statement. "So far, Hollywood has successfully blocked every type of filtered streaming and has sued every company that ever provided filtered content (including ClearPlay)."
ClearPlay, though, told the Deseret News that the change was actually linked to a Google settings switch, and that the company is still operating as normal, just without new movies.
Jarman said he isn't sure why the courts and VidAngel continue to bring up his company. Initially, he didn't want to comment on the case.
“We just tried to stay out of the fray, a little bit,” he told the Deseret News.
But that’s over after the recent claims by VidAngel that the company is shut down. To clear the air, ClearPlay had James Burger, a law professor at Georgetown University, write a “friend of the court” brief.
Jarman said the brief explains “how we understand the law, this is how we understand the Family Movie Act, and this is how ClearPlay works.”
The brief, which was filed on Feb. 14, said VidAngel “has made statements in its brief that ClearPlay believes misrepresent the industry and ClearPlay specifically.”
"As ClearPlay has demonstrated over 17 years, it is not necessary to circumvent an access control measure, or make unauthorized copies or public performances in order to provide families with effective filtering technology," the brief said. "VidAngel’s misinterpretation of the (Family Movie Act) is simply unsupportable either by the plain language or the legislative history, and acceptance of VidAngel’s infringing technology would undercut those that have worked within the law to develop compliant technologies."
Burger also wrote that the two services operate differently. ClearPlay’s service acts “like automatic remote controls — muting language and skipping over scenes,” whereas VidAngel edits its films.
“For all these reasons ClearPlay urges the Court to reject VidAngel’s arguments and affirm the District Court’s Preliminary Injunction,” the brief read.
VidAngel declined comment on ClearPlay's friend of the court filing.
Recently, VidAngel CEO Neal Harmon had said in a statement: “New information reveals that there is no way anyone can filter and stream new Hollywood movies today and that the evidence to the contrary the studios gave the court was in fact incorrect.”
But ClearPlay's service hasn't been shut down, according to Jarman. Google updated its settings, which created a “technical road bump” for ClearPlay. Jarman said there’s no evidence that Google purposefully changed its settings to hurt ClearPlay or that the studios asked Google to do so.
“It’s like Steve Jobs taking the floppy disk out of laptops,” he said. “We’re one of the companies affected by that.”
Jarman told the Deseret News that ClearPlay still creates DVD and Blu-ray products. For example, the company recently filtered "Arrival" for DVD and Blu-ray, according to ClearPlay. It also still has its streaming service available online for older movies.
More changes may be in ClearPlay's future. Jarman said he hopes to announce a new deal with a “major streaming service” this year in an effort to filter new content without any legal troubles or questions.