VidAngel, an online video service that offers family-friendly filtering of major movie releases for as little $1, claims that Disney is attempting to “neutralize” an act of Congress that makes such a streaming service legal.
In a filing in federal court in Los Angeles on Tuesday, VidAngel also contends that its service is in the public interest, and it included declarations from representatives of a number of parents organizations and religious groups, including the Parents Television Council, the Media Research Center, the Traditional Values Coalition, American Family Assn., and Focus on the Family.
Disney, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Bros. are seeking a preliminary injunction to halt the service, which they argue is “no different than many other unlawful online services.” A hearing is scheduled for Oct. 24.
Customers of VidAngel buy a movie online for $20, then have the option of setting filters to screen out objectionable content and watch the movie. The customer can then sell back the movie for as much as $19.
VidAngel contends that the service is legal following the passage of the Family Home Movie Act of 2005.
The law “authorizes for-profit companies to stream lawfully purchased movies for home viewing with objectionable content filtered out pursuant to each customer’s individual choice,” VidAngel said in a filing opposing the preliminary injunction.
VidAngel also noted that Disney “vigorously opposed” the Family Home Movie Act, but claims that the studio is trying to “neutralize” an act of Congress.
“Without apparent irony, Disney insists that VidAngel’s DVD-based business model is illegal, when it is Disney’s misconduct that has effectively made that model the only way in which FMA-authorized filtering can be meaningfully made to American families,” VidAngel says in its brief.
The streaming service also said that “no fixed copy of an altered work is ever created” in its operations. Instead, VidAngel buys DVDs and Blu-ray discs, re-sells them to consumers, streams them to its customers with filtering technology, and then offers to buy the discs back.
VidAngel also filed a counterclaim last summer, contending that studios violated the Sherman Antitrust Act by pressuring Google to withhold its Chromecast support services.
“In either case, VidAngel would need copyright owner consent to circumvent access controls on protected discs, make copies of that content, and stream performances of the content to the public,” the studios have said.
The studios contend that VidAngel is undercutting their deals with video-on-demand and streaming businesses.
VidAngel is represented by Baker Marquart.
Update: Disney and the three other studios issued this comment when they filed a motion to dismiss VidAngel’s counterclaim several weeks ago.
“VidAngel continues to invoke the Family Movie Act to distract from its unauthorized activities. Plaintiffs are not challenging the FMA; rather, they are challenging VidAngel’s unlicensed streaming service. As stated in the complaint: ‘Nothing in the FMA gives VidAngel the right to copy or publicly perform’ Plaintiffs’ copyrighted movies and television shows without authorization. ‘Nor does the FMA give VidAngel the right to circumvent the technological protection measures on DVDs and Blu-ray discs.’ Plaintiffs believe that VidAngel’s antitrust counterclaims are without merit and have filed a motion to dismiss them.”