PROVO — Utah video filtering business VidAngel has lost another case in front of the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, this time on an appeal of a ruling denying the company's claims that a group of Hollywood movie studios were acting in an anticompetitive manner and also blocked potential VidAngel deals with GooglePlay and YouTube.
In another legal matter, a lawsuit filed by the company in U.S. District Court in Utah seeking to address claims of protections under Congress' 2005 Family Movie Act was dismissed earlier this month.
Last year, a three-judge 9th Circuit panel ruled against VidAngel's appeal of another California district court ruling, affirming a rejection of the company's claims that video filtering rules established by the Family Movie Act did not apply to VidAngel's business model.
In the ruling handed down last week, the appeals court agreed with the lower court's dismissal of VidAngel's allegations of anti-competitive activity and noted the claims of interference were also without merit.
"VidAngel's allegations fall short of stating a violation of Californian tort law because the advantages VidAngel sought from Google Play and YouTube were purely speculative," the court wrote. "VidAngel did not have prior commercial ties to Google, and the negotiations between them do not make it reasonably probable the contemplated economic advantage would have been realized but for the Studios' interference.
"In addition, VidAngel has not articulated a legally cognizable theory of why the Studios' interference was independently wrongful."
In a statement provided to the Deseret News, VidAngel CEO Neal Harmon said in spite of another legal defeat, the company isn't done fighting.
"The 9th Circuit decision is deeply disappointing," Harmon said. "We've demonstrated that Disney and its two allies are trying to put VidAngel out of business to prevent competition with their family-friendly content. We're not going away, and we are not giving up."
A spokesman for the studio plaintiff group, which includes Disney, Lucasfilm (a subsidiary of Disney), 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros., underscored that the issue the copyright holders have is not about filtering per se, but the method VidAngel was using before a court injunction brought it to a halt. That approach included ripping a digital copy from a purchased DVD and then streaming it from VidAngel computer servers.
"Courts in both Utah and California, and two appellate panels, have all rejected VidAngel's meritless claims," the spokesman said. "VidAngel is trying to hide behind the Family Movie Act to justify its clearly infringing conduct.
"As we have made clear from the beginning, our dispute is not about filtering, but rather VidAngel's unlawful circumvention of our content protection measures and its unauthorized copying and streaming of our movies."
Vidangel has since moved on to a different business approach, whereby it is providing filtering options for viewers who may want certain content, like nudity, violence, profanity, drug use or adult situations, removed from movies and shows during viewing. Under the new model, Vidangel provides those filtering options for content provided by licensed streaming services, like Netflix, Amazon Prime and others for a subscription rate of $9.99 per month. A company spokesman noted the subscription also provides access to VidAngel original content, including the company's "clean comedy" library.
In the Utah U.S. District Court case that VidAngel filed against about a dozen movies studios, seeking to affirm that the company's previous and current streaming and filtering practices are legal under tenets of both U.S. copyright law and the Family Movie Act, Judge David Nuffer dismissed the lawsuit, citing lack of jurisdiction.
In his ruling, Nuffer did offer the company the option to move the case to a California court, but VidAngel declined the option. In a statement to the Deseret News, Harmon said the company's updated business model would not be affected by choosing not to pursue the matter.27 comments on this story
"Judge Nuffer gave us two options — transfer our case to California, or dismiss the declaratory relief case for VidAngel's new technology that works with Netflix and Amazon Prime, while preserving our right to bring it again in a different court," Harmon said. "Aside from reducing our legal costs, this has no impact on our current business. Thus, we've decided not to transfer to California."
VidAngel continues to work through a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filed last fall. A hearing on the matter is scheduled for Aug. 28.