A California federal judge won't give VidAngel the all clear signal on its new service that allows users to filter content by piggybacking on their existing streaming accounts — at least without further information about how exactly it works.
Disney, LucasFilm, 20th Century Fox and Warner Bros. sued VidAngel last June, claiming the company is blatantly violating their rights by operating an unauthorized streaming service under the guise of cleaning up Hollywood content. Meanwhile, VidAngel says the studios are on a mission to kill filtering altogether.
U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte in December pushed pause on the streamer's ability to offer content from these studios until the litigation plays out. VidAngel in July asked the court for a clarification of that injunction, arguing that its new platform doesn't violate the order. (For all content not related to this litigation, VidAngel continues to offer its services.)
A hearing was set for Friday morning, but Birotte didn't need to hear arguments to make his decision, finding that the family-friendly streamer was essentially seeking a declaration of non-infringement.
"Whereas the previous version of VidAngel’s service involved the decryption of a DVD or Blu-Ray disc, VidAngel’s current service involves generating a framebuffer version of movie data from a digital transmission that VidAngel purchases through a licensed streaming service," writes Birotte. "VidAngel’s request for a declaration that their new service doesn’t violate the Court’s order is essentially an action for a declaratory judgment and is not appropriate for resolution in a motion to clarify."
Birotte says it's still unclear how exactly VidAngel makes copies of the works via the digital streams and without further detail he is unable to evaluate whether VidAngel is circumventing technological protection measures in violation of the DMCA.
"This is simply one issue among many that will be involved in determining whether VidAngel’s new service complies with the Copyright Act and the Court’s preliminary injunction," writes Birotte. "Without further factual development on this issue, the Court is not in the position to declare the rights of the parties with regard to this new service."
VidAngel sent The Hollywood Reporter a statement in response to the decision: "Judge Birotte's denial of VidAngel's motion today was based purely on procedural grounds and not on the merits of our case. Our attorneys are evaluating the decision and will decide next steps in the near future."