Judge Orders VidAngel to Shut Down

VidAngel logo
Courtesy of VidAngel

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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  1. Leanna says:

    This makes me SO sad! Vidangel was literally the best thing that had ever happened to Vidangel. I was able to preview movies that I wasn’t sure I wanted to see because their content was so horrific. I bought a couple of movies that I deemed good enough to sit through semi offensive material. It also helped to be able to see EXACTLY what stuff was being edited out so I knew what to expect.
    This whole thing pisses me off.

  2. Ryan Heath says:

    VidAngel is a fantastic service and Hollywood should be supporting it not shutting it down. I am so ticked right now. I will not be going to see anymore Disney or WB movies. We should all boycott them until they drop this suit and allow VidAngel streaming rights just like they have with Amazon, NetFlix and Hulu. The only difference is the filtering aspect. Hollywood does not want us to have the choice to watch what we want and skip the rest. This ruling is esentially the same thing as saying sorry folks but the fast foward and mute buttons on your remote control are also illegal. I have a few choice words for this judge. Starting with, People of California, vote this hater of children and families out of office! he needs to go down!!!!!

  3. jedmerrill says:

    I would like to point out that, if the studio argument is accepted, this should effectively shut down Apple’s iTunes Match service as well. Maybe Apple should join the suit on the side of VidAngel?

  4. jedmerrill says:

    Very disappointing. VidAngel is the best such service on the market. They’ve done their homework and should win on appeal. Who bribed the judge?

  5. Sam says:

    Try the service. You don’t rent the movie, you buy it for $20. You select what you would like edited out of the movie. You watch the movie. You decide if you want to sell it back for $18. If you decide not to sell back, you can even get a hard DVD copy of the movie if you no longer want to filter or stream the movie.

  6. Gleason says:

    Another stupid move by the “geniuses” in Hollywood. Eliminate a large audience that would only watch your crap by removing all your unnecessary profanity and butt-sniffing, but no-o-o-o-o. We’re “artists” and all our crap must be devoured whole.

    • The filtering is a red herring. It is the fact that the company is ripping DVDs and streaming them without a license that is getting them shut down.

      It is still your right if you buy a movie to rip it yourself and edit it yourself. But you can’t then sell that, or stream it to whomever you want.

      That is where VidAngel is breaking the law

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