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Studios Claim VidAngel Is Violating Injunction

Disney, Warner Bros. and Fox have told a California court that filtered-content distributor VidAngel continues to distribute their content illegally online, despite a court injunction.

That came in a filing with the U.S. District Court of California, Western Division, which issued the injunction.

"Our review of VidAngel’s website makes it clear that, notwithstanding the Preliminary Injunction, VidAngel is continuing to add more of Plaintiffs’ works to its service as soon as those titles are released on DVD and Blu-ray Disc," Kelly Klaus, an attorney for the studios, wrote the court.

Klaus said the company was flagrantly defying the preliminary injunction. "If VidAngel will not comply with the Preliminary Injunction immediately," they said, "Plaintiffs will have no option other than to move ex parte for an order to show cause why VidAngel should not be held in contempt."

"[N]ot only has [VidAngel] refused to remove Plaintiffs’ works from its service," Klaus said, "but VidAngel is also flouting the Preliminary Injunction by adding new releases of Plaintiffs’ works as they become available on DVD and Blu-ray Disc. For example, as discussed further below, VidAngel has added Warner Bros.’s Sully and Storks and Fox’s Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children to its service—titles which were not released on DVD until after the Preliminary Injunction was entered.

“Defying last week’s injunction, VidAngel continues to illegally stream our content without a license and is expanding its infringement by adding new titles," the studios said in a joint statement. "We have brought VidAngel’s indefensible violation of the injunction to the court’s attention. As the court made clear in its order, VidAngel’s unauthorized acts of ripping, copying and streaming our movies and TV shows infringe copyright and violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. VidAngel's filtering of content has nothing to do with the claims against it and does not excuse its illegal activities.”

Related: VidAngel to Distribute Original Content

Earlier this month, the court told VidAngel to temporarily stop circumventing copyright protections on DVDs or streaming any of that content over the internet.

Utah-based content-filtering company VidAngel argues that it is only giving users the ability to more effectively filter content—skip the nude scenes, mute the language if they choose—in their own homes. The studios argue it is illegally circumventing copy protections, modifying and streaming their content and preempting their windows for releasing their content online. The company says it will continue its fight all the way to the Supreme Court.

The court has yet to rule on the underlying arguments, but granting the studios the preliminary injunction is a signal the studios have made a good case for their interpretation. That is because, as the court points out, an injunction is an "extraordinary remedy" that is only granted on a clear showing that the plaintiff is entitled to the relief sought, including that there is likely immediate or imminent irreparable harm.

VidAngel argues that they can legally decrypt because the Family Home Movie Act of 2005 "provides an exemption for decrypting DVDs for the purpose of accessing a disk to filter audio and visual content," the court pointed out in its decision.

But Judge Andre Birotte Jr. instead said: "Plaintiffs [the studios] have shown a strong likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that VidAngel has violated, and continues to violate, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act by circumventing technological measures that effectively control access to Plaintiffs’ copyrighted works on DVDs and Blu-ray discs."

The studios say VidAngel is still doing that despite the injunction.

A VidAngel spokesperson was unavailable for comment at press time, but a note to subs on its website suggested the company would continue to make the content available while it sought a stay of the court decision: "The judge has issued a preliminary injunction against VidAngel, requiring that we pull down all the studios’ content," it said. "We are seeking a stay of this injunction, but if our efforts fail, we will need to take down the movies of all major studios."

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.