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Appeals Court Won't Lift VidAngel Injunction

In yet another victory for the studios, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has denied VidAngel's appeal of a preliminary injunction blocking the company's content-filtering service that was granted to studios by the Los Angeles District Court.

VidAngel provides family-friendly filtering of content. Previously it did so by buying and editing DVDs then supplying online versions to subscribers, but after the studios sued and the court granted the injunction, it changed the model to filtering streams of content, via an app, from Netflix and Amazon and HBO, that users have already paid to stream. That is, all but content from the four studios that are suing them—Disney, Fox, Time Warner and LucasFilm.

The Ninth Circuit panel found "that the district court did not abuse its discretion in concluding that VidAngel’s copying infringed the plaintiffs’ exclusive reproduction right. Because VidAngel did not filter authorized copies of movies, it was unlikely  to succeed on the merits of its defense that the Family Movie Act of 2005 exempted it from liability for copyright infringement. VidAngel also was unlikely to succeed on its fair use defense."

Related: VidAngel Flies Again, With Different Wings

The court also found that the district court "did not abuse its discretion in concluding that the plaintiffs were likely to succeed on their DCMA [Digital Millennium Copyright Act] claim. The panel held that the anti-circumvention provision of the DMCA, 17 U.S.C. § 1201(a), covered the plaintiffs’ technological protection  measures, which controlled both access to and use of the copyrighted works." VidAngel circumvented those protections to make its filtered copies.

The district court has yet to rule on whether VidAngel can use the DVD model under the 2005 Family Movie Act or whether the service as previously constituted violates copyright protections as well as the distribution windows for the studios' movies and TV shows.

"We are of course disappointed in this decision and we’re reviewing our strategy for moving forward," said VidAngel lawyer Peter Stris.

“Today’s decision has absolutely no impact on VidAngel’s current service, we remain open for business," said VidAngel CEO Neal Harmon. "While all of the legal back-and-forth plays out, we know our customers are grateful to still have a way to protect their kids and filter harmful content. On the legal front, we are just getting started. We will fight for a family’s right to filter on modern technology all the way.”

The decision is just the latest in a string of court defeats for the service, though VidAngel has vowed to take its case to the Supreme Court if need be, helped by a crowdsourced legal bill funding campaign.

John Eggerton
John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.