VidAngel Clips Its Own Wings, For Now

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The latest "Star Wars" movie is called Rogue One, but for Lucasfilm, the studio behind the franchise, the “rogue one” in the online streaming space is Utah-based content-filtering company VidAngel.

VidAngel says it has temporarily stopped streaming copies of Hollywood content, but it continues to press its case. A fight over whether a law, the Family Movie Act, allowing family-friendly versions of copyrighted content trump’s contractual business models of distribution continues with VidAngel requesting an emergency stay of a court injunction against its video streaming service after a California Central District Court judge denied a request for a stay. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals denied that request as well last week.

Meanwhile, the company says it has suspended that service, which provides ready-for-filtering online versions of films and TV shows.

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VidAngel sought the stay Dec. 29 from the Ninth Circuit after California District Court Judge Andre Birotte Jr. denied its request of the stay of the injunction that he himself had imposed. The District Court has yet to hear the underlying case in a suit filed by Disney, Lucasfilm, Twentieth Century Fox and Warner Bros.

“VidAngel has received the District Court’s denial of our stay request and is complying,” said company CEO Neal Harmon. “For the time being, movies will no longer be available for filtering. Because judges rarely grant a stay of their own orders, we fully expected the court to rule this way.”

After the Ninth Circuit said no, VidAngel asked supporters to ask Congress to update the Family Movie Act.

Last month, the court told VidAngel to stop both circumventing copyright protections on DVDs or streaming any of that content over the internet. The company didn’t, saying it would be difficult to do so, and it was waiting for a decision on its appeal.

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.

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.