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Judge Orders VidAngel to Shut Down

A judge on Monday dealt a severe blow to VidAngel, ordering the family-friendly streaming service to shut down pending a copyright infringement trial.

VidAngel offers customers the ability to “rent” movies online, and to screen out various types of offensive material. VidAngel does this without agreements with content producers. Instead, the company purchases DVDs and uses software to defeat copy-protection measures. It allows users to filter out nudity, violence, and other objectionable material.

Several major studios — Disney, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. — filed suit in June, accusing VidAngel of violating their copyrights. On Monday, Judge Andre Birotte granted the studios’ request for an injunction, finding there is a strong likelihood that they will prevail on the merits at trial. In the ruling, Birotte slapped down each of VidAngel’s arguments for its own legality.

“VidAngel has not offered any evidence that the Plaintiffs have either explicitly or implicitly authorized DVD buyers to circumvent encryption technology in order to view the DVD on a different platform such as VidAngel’s streaming service,” the judge wrote.

Though the ruling does not end the case, it could be a death blow for VidAngel, leaving it without the ability to conduct business or raise money. But in a statement, VidAngel CEO Neal Harmon vowed to appeal the ruling all the way to the Supreme Court.

“Hollywood studios have followed a repeated pattern in their decades-long campaign to put movie filtering services out of business by seeking a shut-down decision in trial court,” Harmon said. “Previously, such a decision has signaled the end of the legal battle. As such, while we are extremely disappointed — for the countless people who rely on our service regularly to enjoy movies using filters — our customers have given us not just the mandate to fight this battle all the way to the Supreme Court, but the financial resources as well. We will aggressively pursue an appeal and take this case to a higher level where we have always believed we will ultimately prevail.”

In his ruling, Birotte noted that users who wish to filter objectionable content can make use of ClearPlay, an authorized service that works with Google Play.

Update: Warner Bros., Disney and Fox have issued a joint statement on the injunction in which they vow to keep fighting as the case now moves to the appellate courts:

“We are extremely gratified the court enjoined VidAngel’s unauthorized streaming service from infringing our copyrights and violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. This case was never about filtering. The court recognized that the Family Movie Act does not provide a defense to VidAngel’s infringing acts of ripping, copying and streaming copyrighted movies and TV shows. We look forward to defending the court’s decision against any appeal by VidAngel.”

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