A startup that provides a technology that filters movies for profanity, violence and other objectionable content has vowed to take a copyright battle against Hollywood all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court after a federal judge granted an injunction blocking its service on Monday.
The injunction, sought by several of Hollywood’s largest studios, effectively shuts down Provo, Utah’s VidAngel Inc., founded in 2013.
In his order, U.S. District Judge André Birotte of the Central District of California found that VidAngel uses a software to “circumvent a technological measure” designed to protect copyrighted movies and TV shows in violation of the U.S. Copyright Law’s Digital Millennium Copyright Act. “VidAngel has not offered any evidence that the plaintiffs have either explicitly or implicitly authorized DVD buyers to circumvent encryption technology in order to view the DVD on a different platform such as VidAngel’s streaming service,” he wrote.
VidAngel CEO Neal Harmon vowed to appeal.
“Hollywood studios have followed a repeated pattern in their decades-long campaign to put movie filtering services out of business by seeking a shut-down decision in trial court,” he wrote in a prepared statement. “Our customers have given us not just the mandate to fight this battle all the way to the Supreme Court, but the financial resources as well.”
VidAngel’s supporters include two dozen nonprofit groups led by The Parents Television Council. The company also brought in as general counsel David Quinto, the former Quinn Emanuel Urquhart & Sullivan partner who represented the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for decades.
Studio attorneys Glenn Pomerantz and Kelly Klaus, partners at Los Angeles-based Munger, Tolles & Olson, did not respond to a request for comment.
They represent Disney Enterprises Inc., Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. and Lucasfilm Ltd. in the case filed earlier this year.
In a joint statment from Disney, Warner Bros. and Fox, the studios said they were “extremely gratified” by the court’s decision.
VidAngel attorney Ryan Baker, managing partner of Los Angeles-based Baker Marquart, who also has brought antitrust counterclaims, called the case the latest attempt by Hollywood’s studios to dismantle the 2005 Family Movie Act, which exempts liability over technologies that allow viewers to filter movies and TV shows.
But in his injunction order, Birotte said that statute isn’t a defense.
“The statute clearly requires that a performance or transmission of filtered content must come from an ‘authorized copy’ of the motion picture,” Birotte wrote. “The digital content that VidAngel streams to its customers is not from an authorized copy.”