The business of cleaning up videos 2

CEO Neal Harmon shows a phone with the VidAngel app at VidAngel's office in Provo on Monday, Aug. 10, 2015. VidAngel allows users to legal stream movies with filtering to remove objectionable content. SPENSER HEAPS, Daily Herald

After removing all movies from its service, the popular Provo-based video filtering service, VidAngel, has taken another legal blow, despite vehement assertation of its perceived legal protections and business model legitimacy.

VidAngel is a filtering service, similar to ClearPlay, which allows VidAngel customers to rent movies and filter content, such as vulgarity, nudity and violence.

VidAngel customers must pay $20 for their first purchase through their service. VidAngel says customers then “own” the movie, and provide filters for viewing. Customers can then sell the movie back to VidAngel, and a $19 credit is returned. In effect, the model is that customers only spend a dollar on movie purchases.

Disney, LucasFilm, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. initiated a lawsuit against VidAngel in June on grounds that VidAngel’s filtering service violates hallmark copyright laws and regulations.

On Dec. 29, VidAngel complied with an order by U.S. District Court Judge Andre Birotte Jr. to remove all movies from the video service.

“The Court determined that the (studios) demonstrated a likelihood of imminent, irreparable injury in the absence of an injunction,” Birotte noted in his ruling. “VidAngel has not sufficiently shown that the public interest supports a stay of the preliminary injunction.”

But the battle isn’t over, and on Tuesday, Peter Stris filed a reply to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, supporting an emergency motion to stay Birotte’s order.

“The Studios’ strategy in this matter has been to defame VidAngel as a 'pirate,' … and shamelessly claim they will be irreparably harmed unless a small Utah start-up is shuttered,” Stris’s reply reads.

Stris stated VidAngel pays the studio millions each year by purchasing authorized copies of DVDs, which it then sells and streams to VidAngel customers.

VidAngel cites the Family Movie Act, which protects filtering services, as protection for their business model.

However, the motion to stay Birotte’s order was denied Thursday by appellate judges Edward Leavy and Barry Silverman. Should VidAngel lose the legal fight in district court, it has noted it will appeal the case to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Stris’s reply opined the studios suffer little to no harm because of their service, yet VidAngel is all but “destroyed” by complying with this order while waiting for the case to play out.

“VidAngel should not be destroyed in the interim on the pretense that it threatens the most powerful media conglomerates in the world,” the reply reads. “It is not even clear that the Studios have been damaged at all, let alone subjected to irreparable injury.”

Kurt Hanson is the Breaking News and Courts reporter for the Daily Herald. He can be reached via email at Follow him on Twitter: @hansonherald.

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Kurt is the city editor and oversees the Daily Herald's news content.

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