×

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

  • Harvey Weinstein Trial and Verdict

    Harvey Weinstein Taken to Bellevue Hospital With Chest Pains

    Harvey Weinstein was taken to Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan on Monday after complaining of chest pains, according to his representative. Weinstein was supposed to be transferred to the jail on Rikers Island, but was diverted to Bellevue. Weinstein was remanded into custody on Monday morning after a jury convicted him on charges of sexual assault [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein Trial and Verdict

    Weinstein Guilty Verdict Sends a Message to Victims and Prosecutors

    The verdict in the Harvey Weinstein trial will send a message to victims and prosecutors that difficult cases can be won, legal experts said on Monday. Weinstein was convicted on Monday morning of committing a “criminal sexual act” and third-degree rape, following a six-week trial in New York Supreme Court. He faces five to 25 [...]

  • Tarana Burke

    #MeToo Founder Tarana Burke on Weinstein Verdict: 'Implications Reverberate Far Beyond Hollywood'

    Tarana Burke, the activist who founded the “Me Too” movement, issued a statement in the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s conviction on Monday. Burke begins her statement by saying, ““Today, a jury confirmed what we all know: Harvey Weinstein committed sexual assault.” She then decries the “incredibly narrow and unjust set of laws governing sexual assault,” blaming [...]

  • Vanessa Bryant, wife of Kobe Bryant

    Vanessa Bryant Remembers Husband Kobe and Daughter Gianna in Touching Memorial Tribute

    Vanessa Bryant held back tears as she paid emotional tribute to her late husband and NBA legend Kobe Bryant and daughter Gianna at a memorial service held at the Staples Center on Monday. Vanessa began her touching speech by remembering her 13-year-old daughter, who she says was “a sweet soul,” and reflected on their friendship. [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein Trial and Verdict

    Harvey Weinstein Accusers React to Rape Conviction: 'We're Never Going Back'

    Validation, relief, gratitude and pride — those were some of the emotions expressed by a group of women who came forward with allegations of sexual assault at the hands of Harvey Weinstein in response to the disgraced producer’s conviction on Monday for rape and sexual assault. The group of more than 20 women held a [...]

  • Harvey Weinstein arrives at a Manhattan

    Hollywood Reacts to Harvey Weinstein Verdict: 'I Hope the Handcuffs Are Tight'

    Harvey Weinstein, once regarded as one of the most influential forces in the film industry, was found guilty of committing a “criminal sexual act” and third-degree rape on Monday morning. He was acquitted on two counts of predatory sexual assault. The verdict comes two years after more than a dozen women accused Weinstein of sexual [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content