VidAngel to Distribute Original Content

Utah-based content-filtering company VidAngel, which has been blocked by a court injunction from copying and distributing edited versions of movies and TV shows by a California district court, is looking to stay in the content distribution business in what it bills as "charting a path forward."

In response to the ruling—VidAngel is seeking a stay—the company's CEO Neal Harmon said it had launched VidAngel Studios to supply "original" family-friendly content. He said that it had been in the works, but "with the judges' ruling, this seemed like a good time to announce it."

He said production would begin early next year, but in the meantime VidAngel Studios would be releasing three films this month from independent filmmakers.

The studio is at least a hedge against having to stop distributing the digital copies of studio content, though Harmon says.

But Harmon also said the company's path would continue through the courts via the stay request and will take its case for content filtering of Hollywood fare to the Supreme Court if need be, armed with the $10 million it raised from investors.

The studios—Disney, Fox, Lucasfilm and Warner Bros.—said in a joint statement following the court decision: "We look forward to defending the court’s decision against any appeal by VidAngel.”

VidAngel—which points out it pays for the DVD copies of the movies it then preps for streaming and easy editing—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 modifying and streaming their content. And while VidAngel buys the DVDs, the studios, in their legal complaint, say the company has not bought the rights to distribute that content online, is making unauthorized copies to deliver on unauthorized streams and is "no different from many other unlawful online services."

That distribution can interfere with the studios' windows of distribution. For example, said the studios in the petition for injunction (to which Disney-owned Lucasfilm is a party), VidAngel offered Star Wars: The Force Awakens online for $1 "when lawful VOD services [Netflix, Hulu] did not yet have the right to offer that work for a single-day access at all."

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.