VidAngel Case Discovery Extended

Studios and tech firm both sought break while court weighs injunction petition

A federal court in California has extended the quiet period until at least Dec.19 for discovery in TV and movie studios' legal challenge to VidAngel.

That is the Utah-based service that provides "family-friendly" online versions of movies and TV shows.

Discovery is the process of exchanging information between the plaintiffs (studios) and defendant (VidAngel) about the evidence and witnesses to be presented at trial.

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Judge Andre Birotte Jr. of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Western District, heard arguments Nov. 14 in Los Angeles on the Hollywood studios' request for an injunction while the underlying case is being decided. VidAngel filed a counterclaim, which will be heard by the court Dec. 19. VidAngel wants the studios' suit dropped, and argues it is the aggrieved party, alleging antitrust injury for, among other things, not negotiating a streaming license and Directors Guild of America contract prohibitions on alteration to content without a directors' permission that VidAngel alleges are an an unreasonable restraint on trade in violation of antitrust laws.

The studios have filed to dismiss that counterclaim.

Given the Dec. 19 date for argument on the counterclaims, both parties asked for the extension of the discovery quiet period until at least Dec. 19. The court agreed.

The court has yet to decide whether or not to grant the studio's request for a preliminary injunction

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 do deliver on unauthorized streams and is "no different from many other unlawful online services."

That 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."

VidAngel actually sells a copy of a DVD of a movie or TV show for $20, which the buyer can stream online and edit out the naughty bits. Then VidAngel will "buy" it back for $19 in credit toward their next DVD. "[O]ur model provides families remote filtering of DVDs/Blu-rays they own under the Family Movie Act of 2005," a company rep said.

Studios suing VidAngel, in addition to Disney and LucasFilm, are 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. All those are also named as defendants in the counterclaim alleging antitrust misconduct.