VidAngel Gets Potential Death Blow With $62.4M Judgment
More troubling—perhaps fatal—news for VidAngel, the Provo, Utah-based company that filters nudity, violence and profanity from mainstream movies and shows: A ruling in March decided that the company's filtering service violated copyrights; yesterday, a jury hit VidAngel with a $62.4 million fine for its infractions.
Lawyers representing four Hollywood studios asked the eight-person California federal jury for a $125 million fine, while VidAngel's lawyer sought a minimum punishment of $600,000. The jury heard testimony for four days before giving their judgment. The $62.4 million ruling wasn't as harsh as it could have been, but, if upheld, will likely spell the end of VidAngel, which has $2.2 million in its bank account. The company has already entered bankruptcy in its home state.
VidAngel's service operated by buying DVD copies of movies and letting customers watch them remotely while skipping past adult material. The company claimed to be selling the DVDs for $20 each, then buying them back for $19 once the viewing was over. The company's defense was that the 2005 Family Movie Act allows for the development of technology to sanitize adult content on DVDs and VOD services. The studios said VidAngel was making unauthorized copies of their works and violating copyrights.
VidAngel plans to appeal the decision. “We disagree with today’s ruling and have not lessened our resolve to save filtering for families one iota,” CEO Neal Harmon said in a statement.
Its DVD sale business has been shut down, but VidAngel continues to offer a service that filters content from Netflix and Amazon.
By filtering past adult content and streaming DVD titles online, the service is violating Hollywood studio copyrights, a judge asserts.