All posts by Neal Harmon

VidAngel CEO Neal Harmon: Copyright Infringement Ruling, and Where We Go from Here

Wednesday night, a Los Angeles Federal Judge ruled that VidAngel is liable for copyright infringement for having used a disc-based model during 2015-16. The court also refused to modify what we believe is an unconstitutionally broad injunction that is keeping VidAngel from streaming Disney (Fox) and Warner Bros. content using our new system, which means we still cannot filter many titles on modern devices.

 

We find the Court’s rulings, and the implications of those rulings troubling. Despite these setbacks, we plan to appeal. The trial is currently scheduled for June 11th, where a jury will decide damages (more detail in the questions listed below).

 

We pray that where a door has closed, a window will open. Meanwhile we offer all the great non-Disney content like Netflix, Amazon Prime, Sony, Universal, Paramount, Lionsgate and many more when you connect your VidAngel account to your Netflix or Amazon account.

 

Where We Go From Here

Despite the setback in the courts, VidAngel continues forward with its successful business.

 

We thank the millions who have and continue to use and support VidAngel, who have more recently enjoyed watching or listening to Dry Bar Comedy, and those who have now backed our original TV series called The Chosen. We will continue to improve the ways in which we try to help you make entertainment good for your home for decades to come.  

 

It’s your home. We are your guest. And we remain committed to earning your trust.

 

Sincerely,

Neal Harmon

Co-founder and CEO

VidAngel

 

 

OTHER QUESTIONS

Why Did We Create VidAngel?

We created VidAngel to help you make entertainment good for your home. As parents ourselves, we needed better home-friendly media options for our own families.

How Did We Get Here?

Since 2013, we have tried multiple methods to skip and mute content (Chromecast, YouTube, Google Play licensing, DVDs and Blu-rays, asking the studios and now by connecting to Netflix or Amazon Prime), and later making content ourselves based on what we learned from you (Dry Bar Comedy and The Chosen).

In July 2015, when we developed a new technology, we wrote the studios asking both for feedback and for them to partner with us; they said nothing. We launched our fourth attempt at a service (after the previous three hit insurmountable studio roadblocks) and over a million Americans signed up. According to UCLA professor Doug Litchman, VidAngel users skipped everything from the “f-word” (26,425,075 times) to the Lord’s name in vain (25,856,107 times) to violence (12,080,274 times) and nudity (5,009,513 times).  

Roughly a year after we had asked them to partner with us, Disney finally responded… by suing us in federal court, alongside Fox (whom Disney later acquired) and Warner Bros.

What Other Details Are There About The Case?

The Ninth circuit said ours is a case of “first impression,” which means this issue had never been reviewed or decided by a court.

We were grateful for the incredible outpouring of support when we were sued. Dozens of prominent faith leaders, Members of Congress, and tens of thousands of families families showed up to help. We even had tens of thousands donate to fund the litigation, letting the courts and our elected representatives know where they stand.

Late 2016, Disney succeeded in getting the fourth, disc-based VidAngel system shut down in court. So we built yet another system to connect to Netflix, Amazon Prime, and other streaming providers.

How Do Damages Get Decided?

A trial is scheduled for June 11th where a jury will decide whether VidAngel’s copyright infringement was innocent, ordinary, or willful, which could result in the following damages:

  • Innocent Infringement: Roughly $200 per title
  • Ordinary Infringement: Between $750 and $30k per title
  • Willful Infringement: Between $30k and $150k damages per title

 

Finally the jury will also decide the damages for DMCA violations, for which Disney may be awarded between $200 and $2,500 per title.

Disney and others are claiming infringement of approximately 800 titles. Inexplicably, Disney is also asking that we be found to have infringed willfully—which means they claim that we intentionally broke the law. We say we did so innocently, believing that the law protects our service. As has been the case since the lawsuit began, we disagree with Disney.

We are grateful that in the United States of America, we don’t handle disputes like these with fists or guns, but in courts of law, and before a jury of every day people who live and work just like us.

How Does Chapter 11 Fit In?

We filed for Chapter 11 protection in Utah to get a temporary reprieve from expensive litigation, allow us to develop our business, and ultimately make the studios whole if we ended up being wrong on the law. After the jury decides damages, a Utah judge will decide our schedule for paying it off. It is wonderful that our country offers Chapter 11 to give companies like Delta, Marvel, and VidAngel a second chance.

What Are You Doing In Congress?

Last year, former Representative Mia Love (UT-04) and the entire Utah delegation introduced H.R. 6816 in Congress to help American families watch filtered content on modern devices. Now that she is no longer serving in Congress, we hope to find someone like Mia Love to pick up the baton to get such a law passed in this Congress.  

Happy New Year from VidAngel! Overview of 2018

VidAngel Supporters,

As the fireworks subside celebrating the New Year, it’s time to reflect what we’ve accomplished together at VidAngel in 2018.

 

The Chosen – closing at midnight tonight – over $8 million* so far!

The Hollywood Reporter and CBN have both published great stories about breaking the all-time record for crowdfunding on any media project. 

Finally, today is the final day The Chosen will accept investment agreements.  It is conducting an unprecedented 6-hour live streamed marathon tonight beginning at 9pm EST. Join the live stream to ask the director anything you want and have your questions answered in real time.

*Amount raised is an estimate that includes subscriptions and founders’ contribution, however not all such amounts have been accepted or closed, and some subscriptions may not be accepted.

 

 

Dry Bar Comedy – Over 1 BILLION views

Our hit comedy series grew explosively in 2018, propelling VidAngel to cash flow positive and prompting a national tour for 2019.  It’s hard to describe what a live night at Dry Bar is like so make sure you experience it when it comes to your town.

 

Here are some of Dry Bar Comedy’s 2018 highlights:

 

  • 1) Top-10 Title on VidAngel. Four or five of the most popular titles on VidAngel are consistently Dry Bar Comedy specials (competing with Stranger Things, Jack Ryan and Game of Thrones). We don’t show them in the most popular category on the app anymore because they were dominating the section. But they are still the most popular.
  • 2) 4 Million Followers. More social media followers than Brian Regan, Jim Gaffigan, Jerry Seinfeld, and Dave Chapelle combined.
  • 3) Sirius XM Radio Deal. We partnered with SiriusXM radio to allow people to listen to Dry Bar Comedy on satellite radio. Listen to it on channel 98.
  • 4) Audio Apps. Do you have one of those home devices? Here are some commands to test the new Dry Bar Comedy audio apps on your home device or cell phone (these are in EARLY testing, so we look forward to your feedback):
    • “hey Google” followed by “Ask Dry Bar Comedy for jokes”
    • “Alexa” is currently reviewing our app. When it is approved, you can use the same phrase as Google.
    • “Siri” followed by “Play Dry Bar Comedy”
  • 5) Cash Flow Positive. We invested millions into Dry Bar Comedy and now, as we start Season 4 next week, it’s generating millions in revenue. And almost all of January tapings sold out weeks in advance.

 

VidAngel Studios

We are in the final stages of FINRA and the SEC regulatory approval for a crowd-funding portal that will allow everyone to support numerous crowd-funded media projects such as The Chosen.  There are a number of projects that we haven’t been able to announce yet. However, we plan to officially launch the crowd-funding platform for VidAngel Studios early this year.

Legal Battle  #SaveFiltering

The stay (that we were afforded thanks to Chapter 11) has been lifted on the Disney lawsuit and we’re back at it in the courts as a much healthier company. In 2017 we did about $2.7 million (and suffered decreasing cash reserves every month) but in 2018 we did over $7.5 million (and our cash reserves began increasing again).  What is most astounding is that we achieved that while filtering only half the content we previously offered on VidAngel!

 

We plan to fight for the right to filter all content on modern devices until we are confident that the future of filtering is secure.  Even without filtering for Disney/Fox/WB content, it is no longer all or nothing because the rest of VidAngel’s business is thriving. And we will continue to ask Congress to clarify the law as we grow.

 

Finally, we also hope to emerge from Chapter 11 soon, maybe even this year.

 

Happy New Year!

Thank you for all your support. Without your help, we wouldn’t be able to continue fighting to make entertainment good for your home. 2018 was a great year and we expect 2019 to be even better.

 

We hope to see you any time on The Chosen 6-hour live stream tonight at 6pm PST or 9pm EST

 

Onward and upward,


Neal Harmon, Co-founder and CEO

Legal Update: Disney asked Judge to start up the CA legal battle again

UPDATE(11/9/2018): Judge Anderson has ordered to lift the stay in order that damages, if any, may be determined as soon as possible.

————————————

Hello Again VidAngel Supporters,

We had a significant legal hearing on Friday and, for those of you who are following the legal battle, you deserve an update.

What’s At Stake

As a reminder, Disney, 21st Century Fox, and Warner Bros. have been fiercely fighting this Chapter 11 process from the beginning. Their actions suggest that their only goal is to put VidAngel out of business to leave families without an option for filtering movies and TV shows on modern streaming devices.

What Happened

VidAngel appeared before Utah Judge Kevin R. Anderson to defend itself against Disney’s motion to restart the California legal battle. We’re hoping that Judge Anderson will allow this successful Chapter 11 restructuring to continue without needless obstruction.

The hearing went from 10am until around 4:30pm. In the end, Judge Anderson took his decision “under advisement” and committed to write an order as soon as possible.

We hope that Judge Anderson will deny Disney’s motion (and let us find a more cost-effective way to resolve the dispute in Utah).

Thank You

Many thanks to all those who supported us Friday. It was so inspiring to see your faces.  We’ll keep you updated.

Sincerely,

Neal Harmon
Co-founder & CEO
VidAngel

We have a bill! (H.R. 6816)

Do you want to watch movies from Disney, Marvel, Fox and Warner Bros. on VidAngel?
Great news!

Congresswoman Mia Love recently introduced a bill (H.R. 6816) that allows you to watch movies from all studios, using your favorite devices while skipping whatever you choose. Ask your representative to co-sponsor H.R. 6816 right now:  http://savefiltering.vidangel.com

 

“…there is confusion that requires an update to the FMA to ensure that parents and individuals have the ability to control the lawfully purchased content coming into their homes.”

–Congresswoman Mia Love

 

Thank you for contacting your representative and thank you Congresswoman Mia Love! (and thank you to the entire Utah delegation)
Sincerely,
Neal Harmon
Co-founder & CEO
VidAngel

From VidAngel CEO – My kids can’t wait for this

Last year, I watched a 20 minute episode of a TV show called “The Chosen” that completely captivated me and brought me to tears. We put it on our platform, and it became the most-watched program in our history. It also went viral on social media with impact all over the world. I have now personally invested to turn it into VidAngel’s first original series as have over 1,200 other people so far.†

A quick note about season one…Our family of eight now spans a broad range from 1 to 15 years old, and I’ve had a hard time finding something that everyone will enjoy reading together. However, The Chosen team allowed me early access to the first four scripts of the season. As I started to read one to the younger children, I smiled as their older siblings overheard and then joined us. Our entire family cannot wait to watch this series together.

If you haven’t seen the pilot, you simply must check it out! (be sure to click on “Watch Pilot”)

Sincerely,

Neal Harmon, Co-founder & CEO

 

 

†NOTE: VidAngel Studios is a business line of VidAngel, Inc. Neither VidAngel Studios nor VidAngel, Inc., are licensed or registered as a securities broker-dealer, funding portal or investment advisor. Neither will act, or be compensated, as a placement agent for any potential investment. Securities will ONLY be offered through a licensed, FINRA member securities broker-dealer. Further, VidAngel Inc. and VidAngel Studios do NOT guarantee the success of any funding effort or of any production generally.

How “Disney vs VidAngel” Fits into the History of Film

I’ve received so many inquiries about the status of the lawsuit against VidAngel that I prepared a video update for all who have interest.

Significant Developments in the Disney  Lawsuit:

  • Jul ‘15 – VidAngel asked Disney to collaborate – launched service in Aug
  • Jun ‘16 – Disney sued VidAngel calling VidAngel “Pirates”
  • Dec ‘16 – Los Angeles Court issued a Preliminary Injunction
  • Jun ‘17 – VidAngel launched a new technology for filtering Netflix/Amazon
  • California courts would not address whether new technology was lawful and said to sue for declaratory relief
  • Aug ‘17 – VidAngel filed a declaratory relief lawsuit in Utah for new tech
  • Aug ‘17 – 9th Circuit Upheld the Preliminary Injunction
  • Oct ‘17 – VidAngel filed for Chapter 11 protection in Utah to pause the California litigation and focus on improving its new technology for Netflix and Amazon
  • Disney unsuccessfully asked the Utah bankruptcy court to dismiss VidAngel’s Chapter 11 filing
  • All legal proceedings now pending rulings by the Utah federal district court

Again, we want to thank our customers and investors for their patience and all their support. 

Onward and upward,

 

 

 

 

 

Neal Harmon

Co-founder & CEO

 

Sources:

The Renegade Roots of Hollywood Studios (read more)

Thomas Edison and the Kinetoscope by Haneiro Perez (read more)

Motion Picture Patents Company (read more)

Thomas Edison Drove the Film Industry to California (read more)

Independent Moving Pictures (read more)

A hundred years ago, one Hollywood studio was a great, safe place for a woman to work (read more)

United States v. Motion Picture Patents Co. (read more)

Sony Corp. of America v. Universal City Studios, Inc. (read more)

 

 

VidAngel Uses Chapter 11 Protection to Pause Los Angeles Lawsuit to Reorganize Its Business Around The New Streaming Model

UPDATE: We have created a special page to keep everyone updated on the chapter 11 process.

VidAngel is still up and running. And generating millions in revenue.

 

Chapter 11 reorganization can be bad news. But in VidAngel’s case, it’s good news for VidAngel and filtering.

 

First, chapter 11 is simply a reorganization and part of our legal and business strategy. Per federal law, chapter 11 reorganization automatically pauses our lawsuit with Disney and the other plaintiffs in California.  This strategy also allows us to continue our new lawsuit in Utah, where we are seeking a legal determination that our new filtering system is legal.

 

Second, VidAngel is not going away. To the contrary, our new VidAngel system for Netflix, HBO, and Amazon is up and running. We have millions of dollars in the bank, and are now generating millions in revenue. Our original series, Dry Bar Comedy, is exploding and has had over 16 million minutes viewed in the last 7 days. If you are a customer, you will be able to continue to use VidAngel to filter movies in your home using your Netflix, Amazon, and HBO subscriptions.

 

Third, this filing should give us time to take care of our customers and investors. Thousands of our customers invested $10 million to help VidAngel win the legal fight. We want to ensure that VidAngel continues to grow like gangbusters so that the many families who took a chance on us get their investment back – hopefully with a good return.

 

Remember, our new VidAngel system is growing rapidly. Our goal here is to reorganize the business around our new streaming model, which means pausing the lawsuit long enough so that, even IF VidAngel eventually loses the lawsuit on our old system, we have enough revenue from our new system to pay any damages to Disney. That way, VidAngel can survive and reap a return for the many thousands of customers who invested in us.

 

Finally, we want to emphasize that this is Chapter 11 reorganization, NOT Chapter 7 bankruptcy. Chapter 7 is for companies going out of business. Chapter 11 is to protect companies that just need more time and flexibility to pay their obligations. Many companies, including Marvel, General Motors, and Delta Airlines have filed Chapter 11 reorganization and emerged as thriving, healthy companies. That is VidAngel’s plan, and we just took the first step.

 

To recap, VidAngel is:

 

  1. Pausing the California lawsuit
  2. Up, running, and making millions
  3. Exploding (over 16 million minutes viewed in last 7 days)
  4. Working to make a return for our investors
  5. Taking the same path as Marvel and Delta

 

We want to thank our customers and investors for all their support. We will keep you updated as we continue this legal battle – if necessary, all the way to the Supreme Court.

 

Onward,

Neal Harmon, Co-founder and CEO

Marvel movies now available on VidAngel

Great news! Marvel movies are coming back to VidAngel. Why?

Disney has chosen not to contest the fact movies owned by its subsidiaries are not subject to the California court’s injunction and so there will be additional titles available for filtering on VidAngel. Marvel is a subsidiary of Disney. There are several other subsidiaries of the plaintiffs you’ll recognize. For example:

NEW WORLD PICTURES, LTD.
CASTLE ROCK ENTERTAINMENT, INC.
TURNER ENTERTAINMENT CO.
VILLAGE ROADSHOW PICTURES ENTERTAINMENT INC.
REGENCY ENTERTAINMENT (USA), INC.

We’re glad to be filtering titles from these great companies again. We also look forward to when we’re able to filter Disney, Fox and Warner Bros. titles again!

Quality over Quantity – VidAngel’s Take on Autoplay

In an effort to serve the needs of families over the needs of VidAngel, we have decided to give families the option to easily turn off the upcoming VidAngel “autoplay-the-next-episode” feature. Here’s why.

 

Netflix, Facebook, and YouTube go to great lengths to keep users on their websites for the longest time possible. They spend millions ensuring that every feature of their products is habit-forming (see Hooked: How to build Habit-Forming Products).

 

Thanks to Netflix’s autoplay, bedtime at my house is a battle. As the evening episode of “When Calls the Heart” ends, our girls fight to keep Mom or Dad away from the remote so that the next episode will begin. As parents, we usually find the autoplay feature to be a hindrance, not a help.

Netflix Autoplay: Next Episode Playing in 9 seconds

 

Has the Netflix autoplay feature had a net-positive impact on our world’s happiness and productivity? At VidAngel, we are hesitant to take a similar strategy.

 

Personally, I find media to be a good servant, but a bad master. I value media, not when it consumes my every minute, but when it helps me achieve my other life goals, such as:

 

  • – Love (seeing examples of healthy and unhealthy relationships)
  • – Learning (seeing examples of those who have been where I am, or where I want to go)
  • – Empathy (understanding those whose experiences are different from my own)
  • – Laughter (cultivating a light-hearted life)
  • – Or a Nap (resting easy without worrying that the little ones are getting into trouble)

 

Tristan Harris, founder of Time Well Spent,  also believes that media is a bad master. He argues that, rather than incentivizing binge watching and “show[ing] whatever keeps us scrolling”, the tech and media industry must instead begin “to put our best interests first.”

 

I want VidAngel to put the needs of families ahead of the needs of VidAngel. Meaning that customers who, like myself, wish to consume their media in moderation should not feel pressured to binge watch against their better judgment.

 

Although our team is currently working on an autoplay-next-episode feature for those who have asked for it, we have decided to use VidAngel to help achieve our media goals as families rather than simply copying Netflix’s.  Hence, our tech team will provide an easily available “disable autoplay” button. That’s something I’d like as a parent. We’ll also make it super easy to “enable autoplay” for those who are in the mood to binge. It’s up to you.

 

What do you think? Please share your thoughts or parental feature requests below in the comments. What would you love to have as a feature to your favorite family media app?

 

Even though the average American watches five hours of TV per day, we’re ok if VidAngel families get quality rather than quantity on their media experiences. Watch however the BLEEP you want.

Neal Harmon, Co-founder and Father of Eight 🙂

Judge Says He Doesn’t Have Enough Information to Clarify the Injunction, Yet

VidAngel Customers,

We just received news from Judge Birotte that “without further factual development on this issue, the Court is not in the position to declare the rights of the parties with regard to this new service.” This is nothing to worry about, it just means the can was kicked down the road.

Judge Birotte’s denial of VidAngel’s motion today was based purely on procedural grounds and not on the merits of our case. Our attorneys are evaluating the decision and will decide next steps in the near future. It is important for everyone to note that this does not affect VidAngel’s new system, which is fully up and running, it simply delays our ability to provide customers with content created by the plaintiffs.

In the meanwhile, we’ll be posting the following notice on the plaintiffs works to let customer know why they are unable to filter those movies and TV shows.

Keep enjoying all the other great content while we sort this out.

Sincerely,

Neal Harmon

CEO