VidAngel said it will appeal a California Federal District Court jury ruling that it pay Hollywood studios (Disney, Fox, Warner Bros.) $62.4 million for streaming edited versions of their films.
VidAngel formerly edited DVDs to create what they argue are family friendlier versions of Hollywood fare, but a court injunction caused the company to shift to filtering language and content for streamed versions on Netflix, Amazon Prime and HBO via iOS, Android and Roku.
In the face of this latest legal setback, the company's CEO, Neal Harmon sounded bloodied but unbowed.
“We disagree with today’s ruling and have not lessened our resolve to save filtering for families one iota. VidAngel plans to appeal the District Court ruling, and explore options in the bankruptcy court," he said. "Our court system has checks and balances, and we are pursuing options on that front as well.”
According to reports, the studios wanted the company fined the maximum ($125,000), while VidAngel said if it lost the case, it should only have to pay the minimum $600,000--so the jury essentially split the difference, though VidAngel is in less of a position to take the hit.
It has argued that the Family Movie Act allows it to provide edited versions of video content without getting the permission of the producers of that content.
VidAngel has an ally in the Parents Television Council, which has pushed for legislationto make it clear that digital versions of movies and TV shows delivered over authorized distribution platforms can be modified to remove explicit content and that circumvention of copy protection in order to do that does not violate copyright so long as there is "no demonstrated and avoidable economic injury to the copyright owner or the authorized digital transmission provider."
Whether the Family Movie Act applied to VidAngel's content editing model was central to the fight between VidAngel and studios over its editing of digitally copied and distributed versions of the DVDs that the act does allow to be modified.
“The jury 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," the studio plaintiffs said in a joint statement.
“After sitting in the federal courtroom for the better part of a week, listening to the arguments on both sides of the case, I was absolutely baffled by the jury’s conclusion that VidAngel’s actions were willful violations of the copyright law," said Parents Television Council President Tim Winter. "I am deeply disappointed that the jury chose to award $62 million in damages to Disney and Warner Brothers, and I fear that this judgment today may sound the death knell for content filtering unless the Congress steps forward to update the Family Movie Act of 2005."