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VidAngel, Studios Square Off in Court - Broadcasting & Cable

VidAngel, Studios Square Off in Court

Hearing Nov. 14 on programmer challenge to streaming service
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An embattled content-filtering company has given new meaning to the term "angel investors."

Utah-based VidAngel, whose goal is to family friendify Hollywood content, says it has raised over $10 million in what it was billing as a 'record-setting" mini-IPO (initial public offering).  It was seeking $5 million and actually got $10,123,986 from 7,553 "angels."

The company could use the money given that it is defending itself in a lawsuit--VidAngel says it is willing to go all the way to the Supreme Court--filed by Disney and other major Hollywood studios in California district court over the technology, which allows users to filter language, violence and nudity out movies and TV shows--there is a hearing Nov. 14 on the studios' effort to block the service.

VidAngel--which points out it pays for the DVD copies of the movies it then preps for streaming and easy editing--argues that it is only giving users the ability to more effectively filter content--skip the nude scenes, mute the language if they choose--in their own homes. The studios argue it is illegally modifying and streaming their content. And while VidAngel buys the DVDs, the studios, in their legal complaint, say the company has not bought the rights to distribute that content online, is making unauthorized copies do deliver on unauthorized streams and is "no different from many other unlawful online services."

That can interfere with the studios' windows of distribution. For example says the complaint (to which
LucasFilm) is a party, VideoAngel offered Star Wars: the Force Awakens online for $1 "when lawful VOD services [Netflix, Hulu] did not yet have the right to offer that work for a single-day access at all."

VidAngel actually sells a copy of a DVD of a movie or TV show for $20, which the buyer can stream online and edit out the naughty bits--then VidAngel will "buy" it back for $19 in credit toward their next DVD. "[O]ur model provides families remote filtering of DVDs/Blu-rays they own under the Family Movie Act of 2005," a company spokesperson told The Wire.

VidAngel has produced a number of YouTube video to argue its case.

For example, in "Does VidAngel Ruin Art," their answer is yes, and no. "Yes, for some people VidAngel ruins art," says the video narrator, a young, flip, fellow. "They might say skipping nude scenes in Schindlers List alters the director's vision and makes the artistic experience worse. If they feel that way about every movie, VidAngel probably isn't for them. But, no, not everyone feels that way. So, VidAngel improves their artistic experience by exposing them to art they would not have seen otherwise…People who don't filter aren't godless heathens out committing human sacrifice and people who filter aren't prudish religious zealots also committing human sacrifice."

It will be up to a California court to decide whether or not to clip VidAngel's wings and its service sacrificed to the Copyright gods.

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