VidAngel Taps Former Oscars Attorney in Battle Against Major Studios

David Quinto Sqaure 2016

David Quinto, who represented the Academy for 27 years, has been named general counsel of VidAngel, a service parents use to censor objectionable content. Disney, Fox and Warner Bros. are suing the company.

VidAngel, a service that lets parents strip movies of content they deem offensive, has hired longtime Hollywood attorney David Quinto to help it do legal battle against several large studios that have sued the company.

Quinto, who represented the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for 27 years, said Tuesday he has joined VidAngel as its general counsel, effective immediately.

VidAngel is being sued by 20th Century Fox, Walt Disney and Warner Bros. Entertainment, and in his long career Quinto has represented the latter two. He also has represented the Producers Guild of America and other entertainment entities.

Quinto had advised VidAngel for about 10 months, but when he joined Davis Wright Tremaine, the law firm "felt uncomfortable" because of its Hollywood clients, so he was forced to drop the company, he said.

Now, he has reversed course by quitting Davis Wright Tremaine and joining VidAngel full time in order "to help a wonderful organization protect an important right of the American people, and in the process create new law," he told The Hollywood Reporter.

"Parents have the right to determine how they and their children may enjoy TV or movies in the privacy of their homes," he said. "People have the right not to be assaulted by offensive content."

VidAngel says that under the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act it has the right to sell movies it buys on the open market to households that in turn use VidAngel's technology to stream the films after the sex, profanity and graphic violence have been stripped out.

The three studios sued in June, not because of the filtering technology, but because the discs that consumers purchased aren't usually delivered to homes, but instead the encryption is removed and the edited content is streamed to the home of the customers.

While the studios claim that VidAngel is illegally streaming movies without obtaining permission from the studios, VidAngel last month launched a counter-complaint accusing the studios of violating antitrust laws and engaging in a "conspiracy to restrain the market for online filtering services."

Quinto says his first order of business now that he has been named general counsel is to make sure VidAngel beats its adversaries — including his former clients — in court.

"I certainly anticipate this will go to the Ninth Circuit, because I don't think the studios will accept a loss in the trial court," said Quinto. "And it's possible it will go to the Supreme Court, because it raises issues important to over 100 million Americans who want the right to watch filtered content."

In its defense, VidAngel also is relying on the "first-sale doctrine," which says purchasers of DVDs and Blu-ray discs can sell their copies without the permission of the studios. The studios counter, though, that since VidAngel is selling movies for $20 but then buying them back (minus $1 for every day the customer uses the movie), the first-sale doctrine doesn't apply.

"VidAngel is able to offer prices that undercut licensed services and charge only $1 for daily access to movies," the studios say in their lawsuit. "VidAngel offers content that is not available on licensed VOD services."

Quinto says, though, that VidAngel buys the copies it sells — it has 1,600 units of The Revenant, for example.

"I absolutely respect the artistry that goes into making movies, but the studios' objections to VidAngel flow from a warped sense of moral rights," said Quinto. "To date, VidAngel has spent 40 percent of its gross revenue to purchase discs. So when the studios say they aren't getting any profit, they are being flatly untruthful."

He added: "VidAngel would love to purchase streaming licenses for streaming filtered content, but the studios won't allow it."