All posts by Neal Harmon

Guardian Angel Update – Edition #1

Good Afternoon Supporters,

 
So many neighbors have been hungry for updates on VidAngel’s situation, that I decided you should also receive exclusive updates as though you lived next door to me. Here’s an up-to-date summary:

 
Legal Update
In the District Court, Judge Andre Birotte issued a preliminary injunction against us, which is unprecedented given the delay and lack of evidence of any harm. We immediately appealed the decision (link to opening brief) to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals and hope the injunction will be overturned within the next few months. But, we are currently shut down pending the 9th Circuit’s ruling.

VidAngel is counter-suing the same studios for antitrust violation, owing to their collective bargaining agreement with the Directors Guild of America which allows all the Hollywood studios to collude to deny licenses to filtering companies and to prevent any studio from breaking ranks, notwithstanding that the Family Movie Act is the law of the land. That case is still before Los Angeles District Court Judge Andre Birotte, Jr. and the studios have asked for the antitrust counterclaim to be dismissed. Judge Birotte has not yet ruled. For more details, please check out our blog.

 
Legislative Movement
After VidAngel was forced to remove all movies from its site, we were encouraged by the strong interest in helping us expressed by various members of Congress. We are actively seeking a legislative clarification to the 2005 Family Movie Act, to prevent the studios from continuing to misconstrue in the courts. The Family Movie Act was supposed to be the final word, but Hollywood is attempting to nullify it for the streaming era, so we’re asking Congress to secure entertainment filtering for any company that wants to provide it. The ability to watch filtered content is a fundamental right of American families.

 
Grassroots Activity
People all over America are joining the cause every day. A group called #SaveFiltering, started by a Florida family, has surpassed 150,000 signatures. We’ve also started a new page at SaveFiltering.VidAngel.com to let our supporters know how they can help. The Schwartz boys pleaded for VidAngel to come back to music 🙂

On his vacation, the talented Matt Meese (of Studio C fame) did a far more entertaining job than I did in our call to Congress video. Watch Matt in Rome and share his video.

 
Talking Points
From our opening brief to the 9th Circuit Court (see page 13 and the introduction):

“Everything VidAngel does is for the sole purpose of allowing a disc-owner to watch a movie she owns the way she wants in her own home. Yet four Hollywood studios insist the Copyright Act prohibits what common sense demands. The Studios persuaded the court… that tiny start-up VidAngel threatened irreparable harm to the richest entertainment companies on Earth. The district court entered an injunction that forced VidAngel to shut down, leaving millions of American families with no viable filtering option.”

“The injunction should be dissolved. There is no evidence of irreparable harm. And there is no reason to believe the Studios are likely to prevail on the merits of their Copyright Act claims.”

 
How You Can Help
Share our legal brief with skeptics who say that this battle is not about filtering (page 13 and the introduction are especially helpful).

Visit http://savefiltering.vidangel.com to learn how you can help our cause in Washington, DC.

As always, would love to hear from you and answer any questions you have. Thanks for your support in this fight! You are the reason we can win this war.

Sincerely,
Neal Harmon, CEO

Update on Preliminary Injunction

Dear VidAngel customers,

First, the bad news. The judge has issued a preliminary injunction against VidAngel, requiring that we pull down all the studios’ content. We are seeking a stay of this injunction, but if our efforts fail, we will need to take down the movies of all major studios.

Now the good news. This is the first battle in a long war. We will launch an immediate appeal. And unlike previous filtering companies, we have the funds to fight this all the way to the Supreme Court. We’re committed to protecting your right to watch filtered movies in your home.

In the meantime, we will be finding and creating family-friendly shows and movies so you can still watch quality content on VidAngel. This will be a gradual process, so please be patient with us. We will keep you posted as this develops.

Hang in there,
Neal Harmon, CEO of VidAngel

#ThisIsNotOver #SaveFiltering

Disney, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros vs. VidAngel

Fans, customers and supporters,

Disney, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Bros have filed a complaint against VidAngel in federal court. We wish they would have let us know they had issue with VidAngel back in July 2015 when we wrote them a letter to inform them about VidAngel’s lawful service. However, we’ve hired great Hollywood attorneys. We’re as confident now as we were when we launched that filtering a DVD or Blu-ray you own on your favorite devices is your right. We’re ready. More to come.

Sincerely,

Neal Harmon, CEO

Is VidAngel legal?

Is VidAngel’s service legal?

Yes. VidAngel offers a family-friendly alternative to traditional movie viewing by providing a service expressly authorized by the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005. That law protects your right not to be exposed to “limited portions of audio or video content of a motion picture…transmitted to [your] household for private home viewing,” provided the portions screened are chosen by a member of the private household and the content screened is from an authorized copy of the motion picture (see 17 U.S. Code § 110(11) or see excerpt of text in footnote).

Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005

 

Weren’t other companies that edited movies sued and shut down?

Yes, but they were selling edited copies of movies or were deciding what content to screen. VidAngel provides a filtering tool used at your direction. VidAngel doesn’t decide what to edit; you do. Before creating its prototype service, VidAngel got a legal opinion from David Quinto, a movie/film specialist lawyer who represented the Oscars for 27 years and was named a Hollywood Reporter Top 100 Power Lawyer. Based on his recommendations and those of other top Hollywood and Silicon Valley lawyers we consulted, VidAngel designed its model to comply fully with the Intellectual Property and Copyright laws.

 

What will the studios say when they learn what VidAngel is doing?

The studios actually already know what we’re doing. Before launching publicly (during its private beta testing period), VidAngel wrote to 17 motion picture studios, describing its service and business model in detail and asking each whether it had any legal concerns or desired modification of VidAngel’s technology. None of the studios objected or requested any modification to VidAngel’s service, business model or technology. (Update 6/10/16 – they’ve now filed a complaint 11 months later rather than responding to our letters)

 

How do the studios get paid?

Before selling a movie, VidAngel lawfully purchases a DVD or Blu-Ray for every owner on its system (and stores the disc on the owner’s behalf in the VidAngel vault). The studios are compensated by the purchase of these discs.

 

Do third parties agree that VidAngel operates lawfully?

Roku, Google Play, Amazon and Apple reviewed VidAngel’s app for inclusion in their respective app stores. Each initially expressed concerns that VidAngel’s service might somehow violate the copyright laws, but after VidAngel shared its legal opinion and explained its business model, each approved VidAngel’s app for inclusion on their platforms. VidAngel is now live and available in all major app stores. Each app store shares or plans to share revenues with VidAngel.

 

FOOTNOTE EXCERPT OF 17 U.S. Code § 110 – Limitations on exclusive rights: Exemption of certain performances and displays

               Notwithstanding the provisions of section 106, the following are not infringements of copyright:

      . . .

(11)  the making imperceptible, by or at the direction of a member of a private household, of limited portions of audio or video content of a motion picture, during a performance in or transmitted to that household for private home viewing, from an authorized copy of the motion picture, or the creation or provision of a computer program or other technology that enables such making imperceptible and that is designed and marketed to be used, at the direction of a member of a private household, for such making imperceptible, if no fixed copy of the altered version of the motion picture is created by such computer program or other technology.

 

VidAngel Policy: Can I watch VidAngel without filters?

As VidAngel has grown and reached a broader audience, a few new customers have begun asking if they can stream on VidAngel without filters. 

nudity-filter

The short answer is, unfortunately, NO.

The long answer is, VidAngel employs filters in compliance with current copyright law, but we believe in allowing our customers to watch movies however they want. If you want filters, VidAngel is your place to do it. If you want to watch without filters, we recommend one of these unfiltered streaming services:

Google Play Movies

Amazon Instant Video

Vudu

 

(or iTunes, which is not really streaming)

Thanks for using VidAngel!

Neal Harmon, CEO

 

Get FREE movies for LIFE! Help us find a tech team member!

We’re giving away a LIFETIME OF FREE MOVIES* to any VidAngel customer who guides us to an engineer that becomes a full-time member of VidAngel’s team* :

Step #1 – forward this link to your tech friends so they can see the positions available:
https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/vidangel-growing-jedadiah-ashford

Step #2 – have your friend send their resume to liz@vidangel.com. Ask them to include your VidAngel account email address letting us know you referred them.

Step #3 – after we hire your friend, we’ll add your lifetime* of credit to your account. Don’t worry, your engineer friend gets unlimited free movies by joining our team.

IMG_20150813_154126771

VidAngel company celebration when we met our goal last week (we’re months ahead of plan). We went to the theatre together on paid time 🙂 We won’t admit how many of us teared up watching “Inside Out”

And here’s a fun, true story, in poetry:

Once upon a time, far-far away,

an amazing USAA mobile programmer from Texas,
found a new website that he loved more than breakfast.

This new VidAngel customer named Jed,
watched movies with his family before bed.

Well, he found a little bug,
that he offered to help plug

And became VidAngel’s tech team leader instead 🙂

Meet Jed: He has an infamous list in the company named after him, that pretty much the entire company operates around. He also gets to watch all the movies he wants for FREE.

 

* Lifetime of movies means $10,000 of non-transferable, non-refundable VidAngel account credit (or 100 SD movie nights a year for the next 67 years!).  Joining Team VidAngel means that your referral joins the tech team and stays onboard for at least one year. We’ll give you one year of credit during the referred employee’s trial period.  (credit will be disbursed at $150 per year – no worries, we will send you all the details)

VidAngel Native iOS app for the iPhone or iPad or iPod Touch (beta)

UPDATE: 8/28/2015:   Our iOS app is live and in the App Store!   Download it now!

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We’re happy to announce our VidAngel beta iOS app! With the app, you can stream purchased movies and TV shows on your iPhone, iPad or iPod. You can also cast to your TV via your Chromecast or Apple TV (using AirPlay). We’re working with Apple to enable purchasing within our app, but currently you can stream only movies or TV shows already purchased on the VidAngel website.

(8/25 – You don’t need these directions anymore.  Simply go to the App Store and download our app)    Since the iOS app is in beta, we’ll need to add you to the beta group if you’d like to try it before it’s published in the App Store (it’s so much better than streaming via Safari because you can Chromecast and the player remembers where you were on AirPlay). Here are instructions on how to get VidAngel on your device:

  1. Send your Apple ID (It is an email address) to support@vidangel.com so that we can add you as a beta participant.
  2. Download Apple’s TestFlight app to your mobile device from the App Store.
  3. You will receive an email from Apple with a link to download the VidAngel app once you are added as a beta participant.
  4. Once you receive the beta invitation in email, click on the link provided by Apple and the TestFlight app will open with a button to download the VidAngel beta app.

Enjoy!

UPDATE:  Subtitles are fixed on all devices

Known issue: while subtitles are working with Chromecast, we’re working on a solution for Apple TV. We look forward to other feedback.

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American Sniper and Bug Fixes

american_sniper_fanart_1920x1080_by_mathiasus-d8bt7b7

We have had more requests for American Sniper than any other movie. We had it tagged in advance for the May 19th DVD/Blu-Ray release but the content publishing process for VidAngel is surprisingly time-consuming (took 12 hours for the first pass, which had mistakes).

We test the movies on Android, iOS, Roku, Chromecast, Apple TV, and desktop before allowing them to go live.

Because yesterday our hosting provider moved us to faster server infrastructure, but also changed our version of PHP without letting us know. These changes introduced bugs into our system.

We ended up having to make three passes to get it right (we found an issue on Chromecast, one missed profanity and a handful of partial profanities). We have a high standard of quality for new movies published on VidAngel. If we find a single missed profanity, we do not publish the movie.

As you can tell by the publish time of this post (2am), we worked around the clock to get this blockbuster to you properly reviewed and bug free.

There is a silver lining in the slightly tardy publishing of American Sniper. We also discovered through the process a bug that has been plaguing many users recently. It is the bug where only the VidAngel bumper shows up, but the movie never plays. We fixed the elusive bug.

Watch American Sniper in HD for $2 (with sell-back) now.

Why did VidAngel Publish Fifty Shades of Gray, Wolf of Wall Street and Game of Thrones?

UPDATE [9/29/2015]: We’ve just released a new feature that allows you to hide any movie on the VidAngel website. We will soon be extending this feature out to apps. This gives you and me more control over our VidAngel experience.

ORIGINAL: This is a question we’re commonly asked and that we were forced to ask ourselves before we decided to build VidAngel. In the beginning, as we grappled with this issue, we decided not to make VidAngel a moral authority for other people, but to create a community that empowers a broad range of people, cultures, moralities to be able to make better media decisions.

Personally, based on what I’ve heard, these movies seem like pornography with a story line. And the research about pornography and its impact on society is very well documented at Fight the New Drug. I don’t know if these have any story line left after being filtered, but the community seems to think so.

Even though VidAngel can cut out graphic sex, violence and profanity, that does not make a movie worth watching.

Check the tags of these movies and you’ll be able to quickly see if it matches your own personal standards. They absolutely don’t match mine. As a founder of VidAngel, I do not recommend these movies to families, even with a filter.

In fact, personally, I choose not to watch much of the content on VidAngel due to the nature of the movies. I’m kind of simple, but I really like movies that uplift me.

Here’s a reminder about VidAngel’s principles:

VidAngel Stands Against:

Justification To Watch More Bad Content:
If the content of the movie as a whole is against your standards, don’t use VidAngel to justify watching it.

Forced Censorship:
What you watch should be your choice in your home. Your neighbor will likely have different standards than you, and that is okay as long as you and your family don’t have to watch what everyone else watches.

No “Taking One For The Team”:
As a member of the VidAngel community, you agree to only participate in tagging movies/videos you would already watch without filtering. There are always other people who have different standards willing to filter the harder content. The ends don’t justify the means.

VidAngel Stands For:

More Choice:
VidAngel gives families a larger library of good content to choose from without compromising your family standards.

Watching More Good Content:
There are lots of films that have great messages, but often the filmmakers might have a different set of standards than you do. That’s okay. VidAngel allows you to enjoy the parts of their content you agree with, not worrying about breaking your own family rules.

To Summarize:
Members of the VidAngel community decided they wanted to tag these movies. They had already chosen to watch the movies in theaters or on HBO before they choose to tag them.

If a movie is released that no one in our community is willing to watch before tagging, then that movie will never be published on VidAngel. There’s no taking one for the team, period.

But I personally will never let my own family near this content and lots of other content. A lot of people would say I’m over the top. And for many, I am. But because I want the right to choose to watch both what and how I want, I also want to afford that right to others. Others will choose for themselves.

VidAngel is about empowering families and individuals to be able to make better content decisions, even if that means choosing not to watch movies with a filter.

Of course, we’re open to improving our policies based on community feedback.

Best regards,
– Neal Harmon, VidAngel Founder