Google Play's Singapore store selling banned R21 movies

Among the R21 films that can be found on Google Play are the controversial bondage film Fifty Shades Of Grey (left), The Boy Next Door, A Clockwork Orange, and Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. Blockbusters such as Fast And Furious 7 and Kingsman: The
Among the R21 films that can be found on Google Play are the controversial bondage film Fifty Shades Of Grey (left), The Boy Next Door, A Clockwork Orange, and Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas. Blockbusters such as Fast And Furious 7 and Kingsman: The Secret Service (right) are listed as "Not Rated" even though Fast And Furious 7 is rated PG13 while Kingsman has an M18 rating in Singapore.PHOTOS: SCREENSHOTS OF MOVIE OFFERINGS ON GOOGLE PLAY

Spokesman says action being taken to update film ratings

Google's Singapore online Play content store is selling R21 movies that are banned from going on sale here, drawing the ire of other video distributors.

The controversial bondage film Fifty Shades Of Grey is among a number of R21 films that can be found on Google Play, which offers apps and games for download on smartphones and tablets that run on the Android operating system.

Last week, the store started a movie service, letting users in Singapore rent and buy films.

Other R21 movie titles available at its store include 2015's The Boy Next Door, starring Jennifer Lopez; Stanley Kubrick's 1971 film, A Clockwork Orange; and Terry Gilliam's 1998 film, Fear And Loathing In Las Vegas.

Films that are rated R21 are permitted for release in theatres, but are restricted to viewers aged 21 and above.

These titles are not permitted to be sold in home video stores.

Besides selling R21 titles, Google Play is also selling titles without the ratings that are required by the Media Development Authority (MDA).

Unrated titles include Danny Boyle's 1996 drug-themed comedy, Trainspotting, and Martin Scorsese's 1998 film The Last Temptation Of Christ.

The Straits Times Digital understands that these two movies carry an R21 rating in Singapore.

Some movies sold on Google Play are also labelled with incorrect ratings. The Boy Next Door is listed as M18, when no such rating has been given by the MDA on its database. Fifty Shades Of Grey was listed as M18 over the weekend, before its rating was changed to R21 yesterday.

Darren Aronofsky's Oscar-winning 2010 film, Black Swan, is rated M18 by the MDA. It is listed as "Not Rated" on Google Play.

Blockbusters such as Fast And Furious 7 and Kingsman: The Secret Service are also listed as "Not Rated" even though Fast And Furious 7 is rated PG13 while Kingsman has an M18 rating in Singapore.

The majority of the titles are available for rent for as little as $3.98, or to own from $12.98.

This is not the first time that an international content-distribution company has run afoul of MDA guidelines.

When Apple started selling and renting out movies at its iTunes store in Singapore in 2012, it also listed several R21-rated titles, such as The Girl With A Dragon Tattoo, in its catalogue.

All R21 titles were removed shortly after The Straits Times reported it, and The Straits Times Digital understands that MDA did not penalise Apple for that incident.

The incidents have irked video retailers as they are not allowed to sell R21 movies, and they must carry the appropriate film-classification ratings for all titles.

Mr Kenny Kwek, general manager of HVN Singapore, the largest distributor of home video titles here, said it is time for the MDA to review its classification scheme to include the sale of R21 titles.

HVN, the official licensee for Universal's Fifty Shades Of Grey for home video, said it has alerted MDA to the offending titles on Google Play. "Shouldn't the MDA allow all ratings to be sold, and then impose better control measures?" said Mr Kwek.

"Otherwise, the local retailers here will always be penalised for (flouting the rules), while the legal and illegal streaming services get away with it."

When contacted, a spokesman for Google Singapore said: "We are working with our studio partners to update the film ratings on Google Play in Singapore."

He did not explain why the R21 titles went on sale or say when they would be removed.

Asked whether MDA would take action against Google, a spokesman for the authority said: "MDA will work with Google to align their ratings with our film-classification guidelines."

He added: "Films that are distributed in Singapore should be aligned with MDA's content-classification system. Our system includes appropriate ratings that allow audiences to make informed media choices and protect the young from undesirable content."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 05, 2015, with the headline 'Google Play selling R21 movies'. Print Edition | Subscribe