VidAngel Seeks Time to Comply With Court Injunction

VidAngel CEO Neal Harmon said his company will not add any more titles from the studios suing them but that it is not able to remove their titles from its service until at least Jan. 5, and in some cases Jan. 25, so says it will take time to comply. Those studios -- Disney, Fox, Warner Bros., and LucasFilm -- had complained to the California District Court that, despite its temporary injunction and tentative finding that the company was illegally doing so, VidAngel continued to copy its DVDs and deliver them to customers.

Harmon did not dispute that the titles were still available, but told the court that was because of the logistics of removing them given that it needed to stay in business and given that most of its sales (84.3%) are through app stores including Roku, Apple, Google Play, and Amazon Fire TV, and that they were past the holiday deadlines for making the necessary modifications to their apps.

VidAngel has sought a stay of the injunction, and wants a little breathing room while it waits for a decision on the stay and given the time it says it will take to come into compliance.

"If VidAngel were to remove existing titles from its library during the black-out period for modifying apps, the system could not be modified to recognize titles that were no longer available for sale," said Harmon in a court filing supplied to B&C/Multichannel News. "The only alternative would be for VidAngel to completely turn off in-app purchasing across the board-which would prevent VidAngel from offering content that it is directly licensed to filter and stream or as to which the rights holders have no objection to VidAngel 's service. As a result, during the app black-out period, we are unable to modify our system to block access to just the plaintiffs' titles without causing major customer confusion about which titles are and are not available for purchase."

He said there were other reasons, including that it would create customer confusion and a customer relations "nightmare."

He also said that even without the app modification blackout period, it would take time to update their apps, Jan. 5 for Apple and Jan. 25 for Roku.

"I would like to emphasize that VidAngel wishes to operate in a fully lawful manner and fully respects the authority of this Court. It is, and always has been, VidAngel 's intent to comply fully and in all respects with all orders the Court has issued or may issue," he said. "But in view of the facts that VidAngel has now offered its service for just under two years; the plaintiffs waited 11 months after receiving written notice explaining VidAngel's service simply to file their complaint (and never sent any preliminary cease-and-desist letters); the plaintiffs never sought a temporary restraining order but took another four months after filing suit to conduct discovery and have their motion heard; and the Court understandably took  several weeks to consider the parties' various arguments and issue its ruling, VidAngel requests that it be allowed a reasonable time to comply fully with the terms of the preliminary injunction if no stay is granted in the interim."

As to the studios' allegation that not only was it still offering their existing titles, it had added some new ones since the injunction was issued.

Harmon was deferential in his explanation to the court. "This was not intended to be disrespectful or a flout of anything," he said. "Nevertheless, to address the concern identified in the supplemental declaration, VidAngel will not add any other titles owned or licensed by plaintiffs unless and until it obtains a stay of the preliminary injunction.

If the court denies the stay, VidAngel plans to appeal that denial to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

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.