June 17, 2019
A California District Court jury June 17 ruled bankrupt VidAngel must pay Disney, Warner Bros., Lucasfilm and 20th Century Fox, among others, $62.4 million in damages for illegally altering/filtering plaintiff’s DVD/Blu-ray Disc movies for its proprietary streaming video service.
VidAngel, based in Provo, Utah, had taken the discs and filtered out content it deemed objectionable, including nudity, profanity and violence, and then made the content available for streaming to subscribers.
“We disagree with today’s ruling and have not lessened our resolve to save filtering for families one iota,” Neal Harmon, CEO of VidAngel, said in a statement. “VidAngel plans to appeal the District Court ruling and explore options in the bankruptcy court. Our court system has checks and balances, and we are pursuing options on that front as well.”
Studios in 2016 filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against Vid Angel, alleging the service circumvented anti-pirating safeguards embedded on DVD and Blu-ray Disc movies.
VidAngel responded with an antitrust counter-suit, which was denied. A federal judge ordered a preliminary injunction against the service, ordering it to remove the studio movies. An appeal by VidAngel to the Ninth Circuit of Appeals failed as well.
To the studios, the issue wasn’t censorship as much as it was infringement.
“The jury today found that VidAngel acted willfully and imposed a damages award that sends a clear message to others who would attempt to profit from unlawful infringing conduct at the expense of the creative community,” studios said in a statement.