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.  

35 thoughts on “VidAngel CEO Neal Harmon: Copyright Infringement Ruling, and Where We Go from Here

  1. Hi Neal,

    Thank you for the update. I did not see anything in the “Where We Go From Here?” section about continuing the fight all the way to the Supreme Court. Is that still the plan?

    -Tim

    1. Good question, it was in the first section that we plan to appeal. Maybe would have made more sense to put it in the second section but I focused on the good things we have going on there.

  2. For those of us that invested in VidAngel and not the TV series, are we potentially going to lose our money? Or does our investment live on with the post-courts survival of VidAngel via current and future services?

    1. Thanks for the question. As with any investment in a startup, there is always the potential for you to lose your money.

      The success of The Chosen is also success for VidAngel because we have an agreement to be the US distributor just as Netflix has one for House of Cards.
      So people watching The Chosen should benefit both The Chosen investors and VidAngel investors.

      1. We invested. And if our money is lost in the battle, then it was money well spent. We will never sell out, because regardless of the success of Vidangel, fighting for the right to filter home entertainment is a worthy and just cause. Thank you Vidangel for carrying this heavy banner – you represent us all. Best wishes-

          1. If you need witnesses to testify that we would not in fact have rented their movies at all were it not for Vidangel so therefore there are no damages only gains. I think there would be many of us willing to do so.

  3. Just would like to say, “thank you” for being the tip of the spear in this fight. My family and I appreciate all you are doing to free us from being forced to watch and listen to filth put out by the big studios against our will. The majority of the people in this country are behind you. Please don’t get discouraged and keep up the good fight!

  4. yep, what 3 years for them to decide on this. i though it was obvious with the whole DVD-ripping + renting dirt cheap. as for the infringement on damages who knows what will happen with that. Im curious though do we have to wait til this mess is sorted 1st or can you guys not jump ahead and find out through the system if the current model is actually legal? From what i gathered i think it is but i have a slight doubt.

  5. Logan,

    Judge Birotte has declared VidAngel in violation of copyright law.

    The June 12 court date is for a jury to decide how much VidAngel owe’s the studios. 💵

    The legality of the VidAngel business model has been declared definitively illegal by the 9th Circuit. 😩

    1. Yes thank you Brandon for re-posting what Vidangel already told us and what i already knew for years. What is still unclear is if THE CURRENT MODEL (LINKING OTHER STREAMING SERVICES TO THEIR OWN IS LEGAL? I hope it is. This verdict is in regards to the DVD rip to streaming. Read it more carefully.

      1. So there are several sites that allow you to link streaming services to them. Interestingly enough movies everywhere owned by Disney allows you to watch any of your digital content you bought anywhere else on there platform.
        Also interesting is Vudu has a service called disc to digital where you pay 2 dollars to turn your dvd’s to digital including some of disney’s and Fox’s are amount the titles. I see that service very much close to how vidangel worked you buy the dvd and they send you the digital copy, they were just willing to buy it back from you. Just saying

        1. the only reason i brought this up is cus Disney made the comment that it was fishy, not sure if thats the exact word but you are correct Seth. Which is why i hope this current model is the final stage.

  6. Whatever happens with this current court battle, will you still be able to keep your current streaming service.

  7. How close are you guys to being able to find another Congressional sponsor to carry forth on the efforts that Rep. Love was previously championing?

  8. We are grateful for the opportunity to have clean movies!!! I’m originally from Ukraine… The movies there are in ukrainian… The translation doesn’t have any swear words… Although, the translation can be really of sometimes.

    I don’t know what I could do… But if there is anything you think I could do to help please contact me..

  9. Greetings. Is there any way we can write a letter to a politician or judge expressing our support for VidAngel?

  10. Walt Disney must be rolling in his grave. The company he founded was all about wholesome family entertainment. Now the current management stands against families skipping over language and scenes that would definitely not meet with Walt’s standards.

  11. Hello. I’ve come here to ask you guys something concerning the new marvel film Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. First off, let me tell you that I don’t care what Disney says. You guys are following the law as much as you can to bring us clean content and I hope the court will one day bring back the original service so we can watch movies for $1 again. Now for the Spider-Man film. I voted for it to be on VidAngel, but the problem was it was blocked. I checked for the copyright on that film, and it’s owned by Sony. The closest thing it has to the studios is the fact that it’s made by Marvel. But it’s made by the Sony division of Marvel which has also been responsible for Spider-Man 1-3, The Amazing Spider-Man 1 and 2, and Spider-Man: Homecoming. I don’t see why Into the Spider-Verse is different. Maybe you guys know something about that film that I don’t. I’d like to know if you guys know why. If not, I understand. You don’t have to respond. I just commented to see if you guys knew why. Into the Spider-Verse is a great film, but it has a couple areas that are a little to intense for younger kids, so I’d like to see it on VidAngel. Anyway, thank you guys for the other titles you have available. You people are the best.

    1. Strange that it says blocked. We’re working on it. Expect it to be published. Because it’s only available for purchase and so few of our customers purchase, it’s not currently a 24-hrs high priority project. However, we’ll have it out soon.

        1. I might not watch Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, though, because my parents said the film was too dark. I can’t really give any detail about the films plot because I might end up spoiling it, but there are at least like 7 deaths. 2 of which we actually see, and 5-6 that we hear about. The dark side of the film isn’t glorified, and we do see people mourn over those deaths and try to confront one another. But still, if we try to ask mom if we could watch it again, she’d probably say no. When I wrote the earlier comment, I didn’t really have myself in mind, but rather other kids who can see pass the casualties to get to the films message about sacrificial love, and the outstanding visual effects. I was somewhat trying to help those kids out by letting them watch Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse minus a bit of the violence and the use of h*ll. Anyway, thanks again. I know you guys are busy, so I hope you aren’t bothered be me dropping and taking up a minute of your time. You guys are amazing and I hope you make further progress in the legal battle so we watch blocked movies as well. I’m praying for you all. Keep up the great work.

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