Is VidAngel Legal?

Dear VidAngel customers,

 

VidAngel is being sued by Disney, Warner Bros., 20th Century Fox, and Lucasfilm. You might be asking, “Are these studios just trying to get buzz by piggybacking on the VidAngel brand?” We’ll let historians answer that.

But first, the bigger question: is VidAngel legal?

 

We say we’re legal. Disney says we’re pirates. But Disney made Pirates 2 through 4, so who is the real criminal here?

Whatever you believe, know that if VidAngel gets shut down, it’s the end of filtering. Here’s why.

 

In 2005, Congress passed the Family Movie Act to protect the choice to filter. Just as a director gets to choose what goes into a movie, a family watching at home gets to decide what to mute and skip — and filtering is like a fancy remote to make muting and skipping easier. So everyone has their choice.

Sure, what a director puts in may offend some viewers, and what a viewer takes out may offend some directors. But being offended doesn’t mean you get to make choices for other people, or else college students would rule the world.

Well, Hollywood didn’t like that law, so they signed secret contracts with the Directors Guild and streaming companies to create a “force field” against filtering. The contracts said no one could filter or partner with filtering companies — basically blocking filtering from the whole streaming market.

(We only know all this because Sony got hacked by North Korea and their contracts became public. Probably because North Korea’s a big fan of filtering — just not the voluntary kind.)

 

And this is where VidAngel comes in — because that force field blocked us 4 times.

  1. We teamed up with Google to filter their licensed Google Play movies, but Hollywood told Google no.
  2. We tried to license directly and the studios said no, even though we had the money.
  3. We tried to buy discs directly and they said no.
  4. We made a product that let you filter movies you already bought on YouTube. They got it shut down. (Our competitor, ClearPlay, does essentially the same thing, and if they ever get big enough to be a threat, the studios will probably shut them down too.)

Basically, the force field worked. For 10 years no one could stream filtered movies, proving that Disney is so magical they can make Congressional laws disappear.

 

But the Family Movie Act struck back. Congress already knew Hollywood hated filtering, because before 2005 there had been about a dozen filtering companies, and Hollywood sued — let me check my math — all of them! They sued every filtering company!

So, the Family Movie Act said filtering companies don’t need Hollywood’s permission. They just need to meet 3 requirements:

  1. The movie is an authorized copy
  2. Watched in the privacy of the home, and…
  3. No permanent filtered copy is created

Notice that Hollywood here is like your fiancé’s parents — it’d be nice to get their approval, but if you can’t, you’re still doing this thing. Also, they’ll never give their approval! In my experience.

 

So what happens when Congress wants a company to exist, but Hollywood doesn’t? Well, it’s gonna be a weird company.

To filter streamed movies despite the Hollywood force field, VidAngel has to buy authorized DVDs and Blu-rays (requirement 1) from retailers, sell them to customers, stream the filtered movie to customers at home (2), without making a permanent copy (3) — meeting all 3 of Congress’s requirements. That’s pretty weird. But weird is not the same as illegal. Just ask Shia LaBeouf.

For instance, it’s weird for a startup to provide $1 movies without the studios’ permission, and to pay by buying discs, instead of licensing. But it was weird when Redbox did all those things too, and they were legal — though the studios tried and failed to shut them down.

It’s also weird that VidAngel decrypts discs. But if you’ve ever used a DVD player, then so have you, and you’re probably legal. So let’s look closer.

 

First, the discs. A law called the DMCA forbids unauthorized decryption of discs. Here’s why we think VidAngel’s OK.

 

1. The DMCA doesn’t apply here

Congress wanted the Family Movie Act to protect filtering companies from unfair Hollywood lawsuits. So they made clear that filtering companies meeting those 3 requirements would be immune to Copyright Act lawsuits. And since the DMCA is part of the Copyright Act, it shouldn’t apply here.

But even if it did…

 

2. Decryption is necessary to fulfill the Family Movie Act

Without decryption, Hollywood’s force field makes it impossible to filter at all. So either VidAngel can legally decrypt discs, or Congress passed a law that didn’t change the law. And you may not like Congress. They still know what laws are.

So we decrypt movies in order to add filters, then re-encrypt them to keep the copyrighted material protected. Plus…

 

3. VidAngel is legal under Fair Use

The Fair Use doctrine allows companies like VidAngel to use copyrighted works, since our use is transformative and the lawful filtering increases Disney’s movie sales.

 

Meaning…

  1. The DMCA doesn’t apply here
  2. We didn’t break it anyway, and…
  3. Even if we had, Fair Use makes that legal

So to quote MC Hammer, and those jerks at the Louvre, “You can’t touch this!”

 

Now, Hollywood claims our reasons are bogus, and decryption isn’t the legal way to stream filtered movies. But when we ask what that legal way is, their only answer is the YouTube method we tried earlier, which they got shut down! That’s like your fiancé’s parents saying, “No, don’t marry this daughter. But how ‘bout this other daughter you already dated, who we murdered?

In other words, there aren’t other options for streaming filtered movies. VidAngel is filtering’s last stand!

 

Now, the piracy accusers say we don’t pay Hollywood enough. But remember, we pay them just like Redbox, by buying discs. And just like Redbox, we have to buy a lot or we go out of stock. In fact, we spend about 1/3 of our revenue on discs. So if we’re pirates, then we’re terrible pirates. Just not as terrible as Pirates 2 through 4.

And again, we want to cooperate with Hollywood! We want licensing! But Hollywood seems determined to crush the entire filtering industry.

 

VidAngel isn’t a loophole! It’s a last resort.

 

So here’s how you can help:

  1. Keep using VidAngel and sharing it with your friends. The more customers we bring in, the better. And regardless of what the judge decides, you customers will never be held liable for using VidAngel.
  2. Go to SaveFiltering.com and sign the petition to help protect VidAngel. Every voice matters.
  3. Share this post, especially with our critics. We know some people will never love us. But we hope we can convince them we’re not criminals. We’re just trying to protect the personal choice of families.

We’ll keep you posted on the case. In the meantime, thanks for your support. You help make filtering possible.

 

(This blog post will soon be available in video form.)

Legal Battle

44 thoughts on “Is VidAngel Legal?

  1. I want VidAngel to succeed! I would like to invest more but my financial situation does not allow me to do so. I hope later that I can buy more shares of stock. I have donated money to support saving VidAngel. I wish I could do more. I love the fact that i can protect my family from immoral comments and video footage. If I can help in any way please let me know.

  2. Makes you wonder if they are so full of themselves that they can’t stand someone not watching ALL their movie or if there is some connection to the continued viewing of content that is usually filtered and their bottom line. Either way it would seem they are bent on not letting me watch movies without the junk to the greatest extent they possibly can. Between this and the cartoons my kids keep watching I wish Mickey would cut me a little slack.

    1. The crazy thing is, Hollywood, Disney, and the gang are making money they wouldn’t usually make because of VidAngel. If the filter service didn’t exist, I wouldn’t buy movies with junk in them. Which makes them short a sale. Huh. Maybe someone ought to bring that to their attention.

  3. Thanks for the update! vid angel is by far the best thing to happen to the entertainment industry. The hypocrisy of hollywood is so blatant it’s laughable. Good Luck!! You definitely have my support.

  4. To Disney, Lucasfilm, Fox, et. al., it’s kind of strange to live in a world where it is okay to tell everyone not to use gender specific language publicly so that we will not offend anyone but it is not okay for me to exclude nudity and bad language in my home because it offends me. You guys are so worried about protecting your right to put garbage (no matter how artistically dressed) into your films but you are not worried about my right to protect my family that can now watch your films because we can filter out the parts that offend us? Hello…I’m paying money that you get a piece of to watch something that I would have not watched before…what is your problem with that?? MORE MONEY!?!?

    To the people at VidAngel, thanks for the service and for offering my family the opportunity to watch movies we would have never seen before. I really hope you can keep it up!

  5. With you guys. Just jumped in on your IPO. We believe in what you’re doing. Years ago as young parents we purchased a device that VERY klunkily (is that a word?) filtered out language from VHS tapes. Our kids HATED it because it basically blacked-out whole scenes of the movie. One of them now has kids of his own and has been doing the “mute button filter” and “stand in front of the screen filter”! I showed him your technology and he was amazed. We’re gonna fund a VidAngel account for him and our grandkids as a gift. Hang in there guys, we’re pulling for your success (now with our own *filtered* skin in the game)!

  6. Definately a fight worth fighting for! You have the support of my family all the way! We have enjoyed watching so many great movies that we would have not watched if we could not filter them. Hope we can continue to watch many more!

  7. I’ve tried for a while to understand just what Hollywood’s objection to filtering is, and I think I get it now. They’re just personally offended that you don’t like it the way they do. They’re like the uppity chef at an snooty restaurant who blows up and starts throwing things if you add salt to your meal. HE MADE IT PERFECT AND YOU’RE RUINING HIS MASTERPIECE BY ADDING SALT!!! I guess the directors are the same.

    Go VidAngel!

    1. And it’s even weirder because the studios are the ones objecting, and are also the ones who often destroy a movie by forcing a director to change his artistic vision. It’s like a chef creating a masterpiece, someone else coming along and adding and changing a bunch of stuff even though they are not a chef, and then being mad you don’t like it exactly the way they made it.

  8. Vid Angel is amazing! Hollywood is so stupid.

    Hollywood: “Hey do you see all these people that are viewing our product because of this great website that filters out the disgusting and vulgar things we put in our movies because of lack of creativity? Wow look at all this revenue we are getting from this company! Lets sue them.”

    Hollywood is being stuck up, and I think it’s hard for them to face the fact that they don’t know how to make movies fit for all audiences. Vid Angel is one of the best things that has happened to the entertainment industry, and I’m with them through the whole thing. Go Vid Angel!

  9. Hey! So, here’s what I want to know, when is the last time a Hollywood studio bought the rights to an author’s book in order to make a movie and didn’t change a word, a chapter, or THE ENDING?! Aren’t those authors offended because their great work is being altered?! Not so much, maybe, because their bank accounts are also being altered at the same time. Anyway, Hollywood hottentots have been changing source material since The Great Train Robbery, and, while we’re on the subject, wasn’t Jack Reacher WRITTEN to be 6’5″ tall for crying out loud?! Isn’t he supposed to be a BIG GUY?! C’mon already! Hey, Hollywood, why don’t you just shut the ___________ up! Thanks, VidAngel, for letting me edit my comment the way I want to.

  10. It has nothing to do with their artistic rights because they allow their movies to be shown on television and be edited so that they can collect more money from commercials and advirtising. So again nothing to do with artistic rights but just about the almighty dollar.

    Thank you VidAngel for working so hard and fighting for the little people that actually ultimately pay for all these companies checks in the 1st place.

    1. If you watch your movies through VidAngel, you’re not paying anyone except VidAngel.

      As for the rest of your argument, it can easily be said, using just the evidence provided by VidAngel here, that it’s not about the money. VidAngel offered to enter into licensing agreements (which is where the money is for production companies) & they got a rejection, rather than a negotiation.

      If it’s all about the money, why wouldn’t they simply offer VidAngel the same deal that they give Hulu, Netflix, or Amazon? That way, they get their money and everyone’s happy.

      If they choose to sell licensing (including editing) rights to broadcast and cable networks, but exclude VidAngel, that is their right. Whether VidAngel actually needs their permission falls to the court to decide.

      1. Correct, but vidangel purchased that copy legally just like Redbox did before I watched it so Hollywood got their money from vidangel who purchased a copy for every viewer.

      2. Dear Hollywood troll? “You’re not paying anyone but VidAngel” is a pretty bogus statement. Somewhere around 80% of the $20 video goes straight to the studios. Even if that specific copy is watched 30 times, it’s probably still more money they they get from their deal with Netflix.

        The deals are to negotiate *better* pricing. They have no right to refuse to sell their products to someone because they don’t like them. Selling these movies is not an artistic expression so there is no reason this would be a moral objection. FMA also covers our right to filter! We don’t need special permission to edit movies we own.

        There is also a world of difference between broadcasting the movie and watching a streamed movie someone purchased.

  11. Our family is very grateful for the good work you are found so we can enjoy watching movies together without worrying about what we might see or hear. Vid angel is awesome! We like how we have so many choices for filtering just what we want. And how we can watch films we would not get to see without your service, because we would not want to purchase it without being able to filter offensive content. Your service enables more people to see more movies. I would think Hollywood might like that fact. We are so glad you do what you do! Many thanks!

  12. There is no amount of money that will be able to appease Hollywood about the simple fact that many people are disgusted with their nonstop effort to mainstream perversion. They can’t handle their passion being marginalized.

  13. Thank you for bringing this option to millions of families who are struggling to prevent corruption of young minds. I didn’t enjoy watching current movies until VidAngel came along. Thanks you and I’ll continue to tell my customers about your excellent movie viewing option.

  14. I’m with you to the end as well. Stand strong and never back down. I hope Hollywood looses this battle so we have a choice. Signing petition now and thank you!

  15. Vidangel is one of the best online services I have ever used. I love it even more because it aligns with my values. Thank you THANK YOU for doing all you do! I love being able to edit out things that are just plain nasty or scary for my daughter! THANK YOU!!!!!

  16. Fully support you guys, my wife and I *JUST* discovered your service. We stayed up late building our dream watch list of movies we missed out on but can now catch up on. Devastated to hear about this impending court case, our thoughts and prayers will definitely be with you. Thank you for this service, we will be spreading the word and fighting the fight.

  17. This is hands-down the best piece of copy I have ever read. It’s right on target, hilarious, and completely has me loyal to your product even though I’ve never used it. I plan to post this on Facebook and start an interesting discussion. I am also going to look up all your other campaigns just for fun and share them with my friends. (LOL not as bad as pirates 2 and 4.)

  18. So if I play my DVD of Jerry Maguire and mute the F words, that’s ok. But if I pay a guy (or invent a robot) to sit next to me with my remote, and push mute when I tell him, thats illegal?

    -Doesnt the case boil down to the answer to this question? Hollywood deserves to lose this one. Americans have the right to consume the media they own, in any way they choose.

  19. Vidangel has given me and my family a renewed way to watch movies; the way I want to watch without relying on the rating system alone to warn me of the content. The film industry is benefiting more by the added options because I and many other consumers would avoid many of their films due to the content; but not now. Vidangel is giving me and millions of others the opportunity to purchase their films and ENJOY them.

    Thank you.

  20. You guys are awesome! Keep up the good work!!! Holyworld elites suck…love that they’re up in arms about you guys!!! LOL 😉

  21. Love this explanation! Can’t wait to start using VidAngel! And hope that y’all do succeed in filtering’s last stand. This is a great service!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *