VidAngel ordered to pay $62 million to Disney, others for copyright infringement

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  • theOtter Cincinnati, OH
    June 20, 2019 6:48 a.m.

    As usual, I think the Internet is overlooking the nuance of the situation. Clearly VidAngel broke the law: they circumvented DRM for financial gain. However, the Family Movie Act of 2005 explicitly excepts certain filtering technologies from copyright and trademark infringement, an exception which some of the law’s authors apparently believe should have protected VidAngel and similar companies from prosecution. Since the judiciary is supposed to consider the intent of the law upon which its ruling is based, that works in VidAngel’s favor.

    In short, I think the proper ruling is not willful infringement, but innocent infringement. The defendants are still at fault, but it’s not like they didn’t tell Disney what they were doing before the business even opened its doors. If Disney had simply said no at that point, this whole mess could have been avoided.

  • cityboy Farmington, UT
    June 19, 2019 10:55 p.m.

    @ Trisha Lou,

    “I hope this doesn't affect their streaming service.”

    The article states that VidAngels had prepared a war chest in the event it lost the case. The Vid Angel webpage states the amount of that war chest was $10 million. They have a ways to go. I don’t believe they bargained on a $62 million judgement against them. CleanFlicks faced the same dilemma over a decade ago. When given the option it elected to go out of business rather than attempt an appeal that would have financially ruined the company and its investors.

    It will be interesting to see if VidAngels appeals the recent ruling as it says it will. Case law is not on its side.

  • kshean Charleston, UT
    June 19, 2019 9:38 p.m.

    The bottom line is it is not ok to steal other people's property. VidAngels are anything but angels. They took what didn't belong to them, changed it as they saw fit and sold it to others for profit. The court was absolutely correct in their ruling. If people don't like films with violence, strong language or sexual content, they can make their own films any way they see fit. I believe the LDS Church does exactly that as do many other film makers who produce Christian movies. Also, major film companies produce a multitude of family films every year because it is a huge market. Go see those. Give them your money, not a company like VidAngels. Those of you who think VidAngels are the good guys need to rethink your definition of "good." Thou shalt not steal.... get it?

  • Trisha Lou Callahan, FL
    June 19, 2019 2:34 p.m.

    I hope this doesn't affect their streaming service, because I love filtering out the things I don't want to hear and see in a movie. I wish Netfix and Hulu had it already built in. Thank you Vidangel!

  • cityboy Farmington, UT
    June 18, 2019 11:40 p.m.

    @ Radamus,
    “Technically Vid Angel violated the law because they circumvented the DRM.”

    Circumventing the technology that prevents ripping is a violation of the law. VidAngel also reproduced copyrighted material without permission. That’s illegal under Title 17 of the U.S. Code. Further, they distributed copyrighted material via DVDs and streaming in a commercial enterprise without license to do so. Again, that’s illegal.

    To suggest that the illegal activity VidAngel conducted was akin to a person fast-forwarding through an scene in a DVD misses the point and the court’s judgement entirely.

  • junkgeek Agua Dulce, TX
    June 18, 2019 10:14 p.m.

    Amused by everyone who thinks that it's OK for VidAngel to do whatever they want just because you want to show off to your friends that you can still watch movies you wouldn't otherwise watch.

  • Overdubbed San Diego, CA
    June 18, 2019 5:49 p.m.

    I feel like they relied upon the 2005 Law and that the courts have simply ignored that law. As evidence, I note that the authors of the 2005 law said that they felt that the law indeed protected Vid Angel in this case.

    But the courts ignore the law and all of that.

    To me, this is a problem.

    I don't see how the courts can just ignore that law given that it supersedes and thus modifies DCMA. But they do. It bothers me a lot that a law can be passed and you can still be found guilty of doing something wrong when you follow it.

  • Radamus , UT
    June 18, 2019 3:56 p.m.

    I don't dispute the ruling. But I do push back against the finger-wagers who scold this company because they profited from content they did not pay for, or because they altered an artists work.
    If I buy a DVD and then fast-forward through a scene, am I altering the work? If you purchased the same DVD, have I done anything to affect the copy you own? If I take the DVD I own and submit it to a process that automates that scene-skipping for me, is that service providing me with content or a service? Technically Vid Angel violated the law because they circumvented the DRM.

  • TheRealJohnSmith South Ogden, UT
    June 18, 2019 3:03 p.m.

    Well of course this is the outcome. What did they think would happen? You can't just take someone's copyrighted material, make money off of it( and edit it) without working out a licensing deal to do so.

  • james d. morrison Sandy, UT
    June 18, 2019 1:56 p.m.

    Not like they have that kind of money.

  • RedShirt_CDLofWY Montezuma Creek, UT
    June 18, 2019 1:45 p.m.

    @Stacey23

    “IF the companies themselves (I'm looking at you Disney) would simply provide this service for their morally conscientious customers...”

    The companies are beholden to no one but the shareholders and the shareholders expect long-term profitability. Clearly, there is not the market demand for entertainment products for “morally conscientious customers” to justify the cost to produce. That, however, does not justify the theft of intellectual property by VidAngel.

  • bassoonlady OREM, UT
    June 18, 2019 1:45 p.m.

    It's a shame vidangel gives other filtering companies a bad name.
    Vidangel was doing several things wrong, but there are other companies that do it right. Clearplay still has their DVD player, Play It My Way edits movies streamed through Amazon so as not to violate the Netflix terms of use. There are others.

    The law allows filtering as long as it doesn't break other copy right laws.

  • Palmetto Bug Columbia, SC
    June 18, 2019 12:01 p.m.

    So many comments are still missing the point (both for and against VidAngel).

    This case has nothing to do with filtering or editing content. VidAngel lost because they stole content and resold it to customers. This is what the studio's argued and what the judge ruled on.

    VidAngel tried to make the case about filtering but it wasn't. The case was about VidAngel illegally distributing movies, regardless of filtering (you could watch movies without content filters on VidAngel). The studio's were not trying to stop a filtering service, they were trying to stop an illegal streaming service.
    VidAngel thought they found a loophole in the law (buying physical DVDs and reselling streaming rights) but they were wrong.

    Movie studios not wanting their films edited for content is a completely separate issue and has nothing to do with this case. Many other companies now offer legal filtering services which are not being sued.

  • T-money$$$ Salt Lake City, UT
    June 18, 2019 11:12 a.m.

    Utah company CleanFlix ran into these exact same issues over a decade ago. There is a great documentary about it. Perhaps VidAngel should have watched it and taken notes on companies who have tried (and failed) at this concept before.

    Disney is extremely protective of their IP and they will continue to get even bigger with the amount of $$$ they rake in from their subsidiary companies (LucasFilm, ESPN, Pixar, ABC.. and now FOX).

    No mom and pop company can compete with that.

  • dmcvey Los Angeles, CA
    June 18, 2019 11:01 a.m.

    I'm surprised it took this long. You can't alter copyrighted materials, edit them and sell them. It doesn't take much research to find that out.

  • shamrock Salt Lake City, UT
    June 18, 2019 10:59 a.m.

    Those of you who think VidAngel did no wrong might want to "flip the script" and consider this from another angle. Suppose an LDS-oriented film company wrote, financed and produced a family-friendly movie, full of warm and uplifting scenes. But then along comes a company that decides these films are pretty well made but ridiculously tame for the general market. Without permission, they edit the movies to add several scenes of salacious sex and gratuitous violence. Not surprisingly, the LDS company is infuriated, not just by the blatant theft but by the way its creative product has been mutilated.

    You're on the jury. Who do you rule for?

  • Brave Sir Robin San Diego, CA
    June 18, 2019 10:31 a.m.

    VidAngel or VidDevil?

  • Daedalus, Stephen Arvada, CO
    June 18, 2019 10:20 a.m.

    VidAngel delivered an unlicensed streaming video service that unfairly undercut its rivals by blatantly violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act.

    Only by circumventing the DVD encryption and infringing upon the distribution rights of the copyright owners was VidAngel able to charge $1 for customers to stream movies that had just been released to DVD.

    Customers who opted not to apply any filters to VidAngel streamed movies could watch the most current movies at a rock-bottom price. Other providers who played by the rules, such as Amazon or other filtering services, were at a competitive disadvantage --they had to wait for movies to be released to the streaming distribution market and had to pass on the additional licensing fee to their customers.

    That VidAngel allowed its subscribers to apply filters to the content did not transform this core infringement-enabled arbitrage.

    As others have explained, the big-bad Hollywood studios have no problem allowing their content to be edited and distributed, provided that the appropriate licensing fees are paid.

    In short, these rulings to not prevent a video filtering business model.

    Just an illegal one.

  • Impartial7 DRAPER, UT
    June 18, 2019 10:10 a.m.

    Stacey23 - Salt Lake City, UT
    June 18, 2019 8:42 a.m.
    IF the companies themselves (I'm looking at you Disney) would simply provide this service for their morally conscientious customers there wouldn't be a need for VidAngel to fill the void. Many, many, (many) homes do this themselves and store the "better" versions for repeat viewing. "

    You know, we keep hearing (mostly here) about this huge demand from " morally conscientious customers". Whose morality? Is it someone that objects to nudity but not profanity. Someone that objects to profanity but not violence? Someone that objects to all 3 (or more)? That's the issue. Everyone has their own version of morality. Plus, I can't think of another industry that employs more people and resources to develop, market and distribute products that the market wants. They don't miss a chance to make a buck. If there is such a high demand for " morally conscientious" content, don't you think they'd be on top of it? How come Utahn's haven't formed production companies and cranked out these wildly demanded films? Or is it a small, but vocal market that can't sustain the production costs to produce the entertainment they say that everyone wants?

  • ConservativeCommonTater Salt Lake City, UT
    June 18, 2019 9:54 a.m.

    Boyd in Provo - , 00

    "I've always wondered why Hollywood can purchase the rights to a well written book and then at their discretion change the content to basically whatever they want?"

    It's very simple Boyd of Provo. They BUY all rights to the book including the right to change parts.

    Your Snip-Cut folks don't. Don't you think it's hypocritical to watch a movie you object to?

    Kralon - HUNTINGTON BEACH, CA
    "Seems more than a little hypocritical that the general public simply edits as they see fit and no corporation or "artist" complains or sues."

    ERB - Eagle Mountain, UT

    "Key phrase, California Jury."

    Yes, that's how laws work outside of Utah. Get used to it.

    The "General public" doesn't own the rights to change anything. It's a very simple concept.

    For the $62 million fine, these good and righteous Mormons could have made several movies that they belives are "wholesome, family values, Utah values and Mormon values" movies.

    There is always "Little House on the Prairie" and Touched by an Angel" for those folks that want that kind of stuff.

    Don't steal from others and you won't get in trouble. VidAngels doesn 't make the rules about other's property.

  • LivinLarge Bountiful, UT
    June 18, 2019 9:30 a.m.

    VidAngel's business model was all wrong. If a customer legitimately purchased an original video, sent it in to VidAngel for scrubbing the objectionable content, paid a fee for the service, no problem.

  • Impartial7 DRAPER, UT
    June 18, 2019 9:18 a.m.

    @ERB - Eagle Mountain, UT
    June 17, 2019 10:00 p.m.
    Key phrase, California Jury."

    It ended up in CA because that's where the 9th District Court of Appeals is located. After they already lost in local Utah courts, the US District Court in SLC, and in Denver. This isn't about morality in movies. It's about stealing copyrighted material. Judges and juries in most states don't like theft, no matter the so claimed "morality" for the theft.

  • Christmas Carole Hurricane, UT
    June 18, 2019 9:15 a.m.

    @TexInUT,
    Thanks for getting back...I understand and accept their desire for incentive...I'd be GREAT with paying for a cleaned up version THEY produced...my residual feeling from what I read was they obstinately wanted nothing to do with a cleaned up version. I get the feeling that's WHY people like this company produce these...the STUDIOS have NO INTEREST in making a cleaned version...

  • Impartial7 DRAPER, UT
    June 18, 2019 8:53 a.m.

    @ERB - Eagle Mountain, UT
    June 17, 2019 10:00 p.m.
    Key phrase, California Jury."

    Did you read the articles? Have you followed this story for the past 5 years? It ended up in CA because they lost numerous court battles in Utah, including some in US District court in SLC, and appealed all the way to the 9th Circuit Court in CA. This is a case about theft, not about "clean" movies. Juries, all over the country don't look kindly at thieves. No matter their "moral" reasons for stealing.

  • Stacey23 Salt Lake City, UT
    June 18, 2019 8:42 a.m.

    IF the companies themselves (I'm looking at you Disney) would simply provide this service for their morally conscientious customers there wouldn't be a need for VidAngel to fill the void. Many, many, (many) homes do this themselves and store the "better" versions for repeat viewing.

    While ripping the DVDs and re-selling them wasn't smart, VidAngel could simply move to a donation/free service with ads and possibly contract with a second tier supplier to rebroadcast like tv stations and streaming services do today.

    I say second tier because no doubt the unwashed minions in Hollywood would never touch pen to paper for a deal with a well meaning, if misguided, group to clean up their act.

  • goodnight-goodluck Salt Lake City, UT
    June 18, 2019 8:40 a.m.

    Can't edit warm water movies..... best to turn em off.

  • TexInUT Midvale, UT
    June 18, 2019 8:27 a.m.

    @ Christmas Carole

    The issue is when the 'clean up' happens without their permission and then is broadcasted / streamed without their permission. Remember, the studios are the copyright holder...they have the final say over their product.

    As for being 'resistant' to changes of their product, I can see why they are resistant: they own the product and have put in a lot of time, effort and money into that final product. Unless there is an incentive to preform the change, the entertainment industry generally will do nothing further...especially if the majority of consumers accept the production 'as-is'.

    The movie studios do have agreements with the airlines and TV industry for 'broadcast-quality' edits. The airlines and broadcast industries pay the studios to produce the edited product. In rare cases, the broadcast industry many edit it themselves, but they have to get the 'owning' studio 'sign off' on all the changes before going to air. Most broadcast services just pay into 'movie service' to get edited content sent to them every month.

    PBS, broadcast television stations and even BYU-TV subscribe to these studio services. Otherwise, they couldn't air the movies.

  • Daedalus, Stephen Arvada, CO
    June 18, 2019 8:06 a.m.

    @Christmas Carole: "I haven't studied the legality of this, but I..."

    This might have well been the mission statement for VidAngel.

  • F Alger Salt Lake City, UT
    June 18, 2019 8:02 a.m.

    The end of VidAngel. They will declare final bankruptcy and close up shop.

    Clearplayer and VidAngel and others have a good product. They just need to find studios that will let them adjust content.

  • BJMoose Syracuse, UT
    June 18, 2019 7:55 a.m.

    Absolutely the correct outcome.

  • Thomas Jefferson Salt Lake City, UT
    June 18, 2019 7:42 a.m.

    “We disagree with today’s ruling and have not lessened our resolve to save filtering for families one iota," Harmon said in a statement. 'And we plan on continuing to steal content we have no right to because...'

    I love how they make the 'appeal to family' as if that should allow them to just steal others property.

  • Christmas Carole Hurricane, UT
    June 18, 2019 7:34 a.m.

    @TexInUT,
    I haven't studied the legality of this, but I do recall reading some years back that the studios were extremely negative about anyone 'messing' with their 'artistic' and 'creative' product and did not WANT the content cleaned up...are you aware of any of this?

  • Utesteve Salt Lake City, UT
    June 18, 2019 7:27 a.m.

    Vidangel thought they could get cute with copyright law. They knew they would be in violation if their argument failed and fail it did.

    No sympathy. They are no better than the speeder that “didn’t see the sign.”

  • Joe Hilll Salt Lake City, UT
    June 18, 2019 7:04 a.m.

    @ERB
    See I thought the key phrase was "copyright infringement." I guess in California they don't just excuse criminal behaviors because the criminal was a "good religious man."

  • The Atheist Provo, UT
    June 18, 2019 3:54 a.m.

    Another example of the "moral" people violating the law and ethics to make a buck.

  • Crusader Layton, UT
    June 18, 2019 1:54 a.m.

    These thieves need jail time on top of the monetary punishment.

    Aren't we in a trade war with China for intellectual theft?

  • cityboy Farmington, UT
    June 18, 2019 1:19 a.m.

    @ ERB,

    “Key phrase, California jury”

    Nope. Key aspect: greed. VidAngels tried the age-old approach of getting something for nothing by trying to circumvent copyright laws. They thought they could, without authorization of the developer, purchase popular DVDs, alter and copy them and stream the altered versions to customers. Doing so was illegal on so many counts.

    It is remarkable that so many of those commenting nevertheless feel that the end justifies the means even if those means are unethical or illegal.

  • Thoughts from Bob Eagle Mountain, UT
    June 17, 2019 10:37 p.m.

    If one desires to view entertainment without nudity and profanity, then don't view entertainment that has it to begin with.
    The best course is to create quality entertainment in the first place.

  • Palmetto Bug Columbia, SC
    June 17, 2019 10:17 p.m.

    Please remember that this ruling has nothing to do with filtering or modifying content. This is about VidAngel illegally ripping DVDs and streaming them to customers.
    This is no different than someone opening a movie theater without paying the movie studios for rights to show movies.

    Filtering is still legal and many companies use legal means to provide this service to customers (VidAngel now included) by appropriately licensing content.

    This seems like a fair ruling given the parameters of the case and VidAngel’s blatant disregard for the law. For a company that espouses values I would hope they were more ethical (and for the record, I won’t watch movies with too much objectionable content and like having filtering options).

  • ERB Eagle Mountain, UT
    June 17, 2019 10:00 p.m.

    Key phrase, California Jury.

  • Carbon Dioxide Eagle Mountain, UT
    June 17, 2019 9:50 p.m.

    Best to work with the media companies. They will allow movies to be edited. After all, most R rated movies do appear on commercial TV are edited for content.

  • CJ Miles Dallas, TX
    June 17, 2019 9:36 p.m.

    If you don't own it, you can 't use it without a contract to do so. Simple ruling.

    The lesson learned here is don't steal other people's property and use it for your gain. Nothing is free in life. especially if someone paid to create it and you steal it.

  • shamrock Salt Lake City, UT
    June 17, 2019 8:51 p.m.

    Totally predictable and reasonable ruling. VidAngel are not the "good guys." They're rip-off artists who claimed they could modify other people's creative works without paying them for the privilege. Unlike a studio that buys the rights to a novel and has a contract authorizing them to create a new work based on the original, VidAngel tried to skip the payment part and exploit other people's work for their own profit. That violates copyright law.

  • TexInUT Midvale, UT
    June 17, 2019 8:49 p.m.

    @ Boyd in Provo - Please check out Section 1201 of the DCMA (Dgital Millennium Copyright Act) and you will find out about one of the biggest things that got VidAngel in trouble: the ripping of content by defeating the anti-piracy encryption...also known as “Anti-Circumvention” provisions of the DMCA.

    In short, VidAngel broke the encryption and streamed the video without the permission of the copyright holder.

    If they would have had a deal with the studios in place that allowed them to 'jump around' the 'offending' scene or language, they would not be in court right now.

  • Gpagentry Orem, UT
    June 17, 2019 8:27 p.m.

    This is heartbreaking! These were just good guys trying to make things better for those who are tired of seeing and hearing garbage from the major studios.

  • Kralon HUNTINGTON BEACH, CA
    June 17, 2019 7:53 p.m.

    Most likely every consumer should also pay, because we all zoom past or mute sections of shows.

    The whole point of the corporations lawsuit was the loss of "artistic integrity" which happens with almost every view of their shows. Seems more than a little hypocritical that the general public simply edits as they see fit and no corporation or "artist" complains or sues.

  • TexInUT Midvale, UT
    June 17, 2019 7:49 p.m.

    If VidAngel, from the beginning, had been a service that worked in conjunction with the DVD / Blu-Ray disk players (think of the old buffering 'nanny boxes') or an app that worked on streaming services (modern 'nanny box'), they would not be in the legal pickle they are now. In the end, their business plan was faulty.

    The big no-no's were breaking anti-piracy copyright protections and streaming of media that was not available on other platforms (that had contracts with the studios, by the way). In the end, VidAngel will be auctioned off by the courts...from patents to office chairs. The way VidAngel went about their business and legal affairs led them down this path of demise.

  • Boyd in Provo , 00
    June 17, 2019 7:42 p.m.

    I've always wondered why Hollywood can purchase the rights to a well written book and then at their discretion change the content to basically whatever they want? What VidAngels has attempted to do in my limited opinion is to make the movies they work on more suitable for viewing for those individuals and families that needed the content less offensive. They did their best to provide a service to many individuals without malice to the movie industry. I hope they win their appeal if they go forward with it.

  • northland55 Provo, UT
    June 17, 2019 7:08 p.m.

    That stinks for them. Just shows the consequences of breaking the 8th commandment: thou shall not steal.