A California federal judge has ruled that VidAngel, a VOD streaming service that ‘sanitises’ films with ‘clean’ versions that have been edited for objectionable content (sex, violence, etc.), is liable for copyright infringement.
The service allegedly bought movie discs, broke their encryption, ripped them and then streamed versions that allow customers to filter out or skip past nudity, profanity, and violence so as to make it consumable for what’s dubbed the ‘faith-and-family’ audience demographic.
Disney Pictures, Warner Bros. Pictures, and 20th Century Fox all filed suit in 2016 against the company with the allegation that VidAngel was running an “unlicensed VOD streaming service” which not only violated exclusive rights to copy and perform copyrighted works, but also offered access to films before such content was available on licensed VOD services like Netflix.
VidAngel’s primary defense was the U.S. Family Home Movie Act of 2005 which allows for the cracking of encryption to remove objectionable material – so long as no fixed copy of the new altered version is created.
VidAngel kept on fighting though, hitting a new hurdle this week as U.S. District Court Judge Andre Birotte Jr. released a series of orders including granting summary judgment to the studios on the issue of liability, rejecting VidAngel’s attempt to shift blame to users, and failing to raise triable issues of fair use and protection by the First Amendment.
Birotte has rejected VidAngel’s attempt to modify the injunction, and also ordered a deposition from a VidAngel executive as studios continue to hunt for damages. Estimates are they could be as little as $950,000 and up to $152 million – VidAngel reportedly only has $2.4 million in cash in the bank.
Source: THR ESQ