Three major motion picture studios are forcing Provo-based VidAngel to stop distributing their films. They argue the company is illegally distributing their movies and violating copyright.
VidAngel is a subscription movie service that allows viewers to watch big budget films with the option of filtering out scenes that include violence, nudity or profanity by decrypting DVDs to choose what they see.
But the newest part of a lawsuit from Disney, Warner Brothers and 20th Century Fox Studios forced VidAngel to stop distributing their films this week.
Neal Harmon is the CEO of VidAngel. He argues that Congress’ 2005 Family Movie Act was passed to allow this kind of filtering to happen.
"We believe that the Family Movie Act ultimately was written so that there would be a way for the studios to be paid, but that a company like ours wouldn’t be liable for copyright infringement," Harmon says.
But, he says, the way things work now, the studios get to unfairly choose who buys the licenses to stream their movies and that they’ve never allowed companies like his to actually operate.
"They want us to be required to ask permission, permission that they’ve never given in history and have never shown an intention to give," Harmon says.
Jeff Hunt is a lawyer who specializes in media and intellectual property. He says the stakes for the studios in this suit are bigger than just VidAngel providing cleaned-up content for viewers.
"The studios are very protective of their content and their relationships with their distributors and if VidAngel prevails in this lawsuit it will cause huge disruption to the distribution model for video on-demand that the studios rely on," Hunt says.
As for VidAngel, Harmon says he’s willing to take their case to the Supreme Court.