VidAngel Could Face $125 Million Judgment in Copyright Trial

A trial got underway on Tuesday to determine how much VidAngel, the family-friendly streaming service, will have to pay for violating major studios’ copyrights.

The company, based in Provo, Utah, operated a service in 2016 that allowed users to filter out objectionable content from Hollywood movies. Disney, Fox, Lucasfilm and Warner Bros. filed suit, and got an injunction to shut the service down. In March, U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte ruled against VidAngel, finding that the company had violated the studios’ copyrights, but left it up to a jury to decide damages.

In his opening statement on Tuesday, plaintiffs’ attorney Kelly Klaus argued the VidAngel had willfully violated the law. He told jurors that VidAngel had operated its service by ripping unauthorized copies off of DVDs.

“They stole them from these,” he said, holding up a handful of DVD cases. “Everyone knows you can’t do that. It’s just not allowed.”

He urged the jurors to impose the maximum penalty, which would run to about $125 million, saying it would serve as a deterrent to other violators. VidAngel has declared bankruptcy in Utah, and has about $2.2 million in the bank, according to its most recent operating report.

Mark L. Eisenhut, an attorney for VidAngel, argued that CEO Neal Harmon and others at the company had operated in a good faith belief that what they were doing was legal. They relied on the federal Family Movie Act, a 2005 statute that permits filtering of offensive content — such as language, nudity, immodesty, or violence — from authorized copies. VidAngel’s attorneys advised that the copies were permitted because the company had paid for the DVDs.

“They bought 72,000 discs,” Eisenhut said, adding that 65% of VidAngel’s customers said they would not have watched the movies without content filtering. “All VidAngel does is bring a lot more people to the table.”

Eisenhut also argued that the studios were at fault for failing to make filtered copies of their movies available to the faith-and-family audiences. He said VidAngel would have been happy to pay a license fee to the studios, but the studios refused to do business with them.

“We don’t do don’t it that way in our society,” Eisenhut said. “When there’s a way to accommodate, we accommodate.”

Eisenhut asked the jurors to impose the minimum penalty of about $600,000.

More Biz

  • Andy Signore Screen Junkies

    'Honest Trailers' Creator Andy Signore Settles Defy Media Suit

    Andy Signore, the creator of Screen Junkies’ “Honest Trailers,” has settled a lawsuit against Defy Media challenging his firing for alleged sexual misconduct. Signore was one of the first figures to lose his job in the aftermath of the Harvey Weinstein harassment revelations in October 2017. Defy Media, which then owned Screen Junkies, terminated him [...]

  • Singer-rapper Psy performs during the 70th

    YG Agency Boss Quits as K-Pop Scandals Expand

    Yang Hyun-suk last week resigned from his remaining positions at YG Entertainment. The talent agency he co-founded is deeply mired in a series of inter-linked scandals that stretch from drugs to prostitution. Problems started with the band Bigbang and its star Seungri, but now also encompass other YG artists. Hwang Bo-kyung was appointed as the [...]

  • NEW YORK, NY – JUNE, 24:

    LGBTQ Stars Honored at Variety’s Power of Pride Celebration

    New York City felt the full Power of Pride on Monday, as Variety celebrated its inaugural issue devoted to the annual recognition of LGBTQ people worldwide. At an intimate gathering at Mr. Purple, the rooftop bar at Hotel Indigo Lower East Side in Manhattan, Variety’s cover stars and luminaries gathered for cocktails and the unveiling [...]

  • Motown Seeks to Block 'O-Town' Trademark

    Motown Seeks to Block 'O-Town' Trademark

    UPDATED: The boy band O-Town briefly rose to fame in 2000, with a star turn on MTV’s reality series “Making the Band.” But the reformed group has just one obstacle to its efforts to trademark its name: Motown Recordings. The label’s parent company, Universal Music Group, is trying to block the band from registering “O-Town” [...]

  • Alyssa Milano

    Alyssa Milano Settles $10 Million Suit With Former Accountant

    Actress Alyssa Milano has settled a legal battle with her former accountant as the case was on the verge of going to trial. Milano and her husband, agent David Bugliari, filed suit in 2017, alleging that accountant Kenneth Hellie had forged her signature on checks, failed to pay overdue bills and taxes and allowed costs [...]

  • J Balvin ‘Amicably’ Parts Ways With

    J Balvin ‘Amicably’ Parts Ways With Longtime Manager Rebeca Leon

    J Balvin and his longtime manager Rebeca León have “amicably” parted ways, reps for the singer and León confirmed to Variety. The news was first reported by Billboard. León — who also oversees the careers of fast-rising Spanish singer Rosalia as well as Colombian superstar Juanes, with whom she founded Lionfish Entertainment — began managing Balvin early in his career [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content