Judge Won't Pause VidAngel Injunction

The site will seek emergency relief from the 9th Circuit.
David McNew/Getty Images

VidAngel can't delay an injuction that keeps it from offering hit films from major studios pending a copyright suit, after a California federal judge on Thursday declined to grant a stay.

U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte denied a request that would allow VidAngel to continue operating as usual while it awaits an appeal, finding that the studios "have demonstrated a strong likelihood of success on the merits of their claims."

The legal fight began in June, when Warner Bros, Disney and 20th Century Fox joined forces to stop what they claim is blatant copyright infringement by VidAngel. VidAngel customers "buy" a movie like The Force Awakens for $20, set filters to remove offending content like violence or nudity, watch it and then can "sell back" the film to the company for a $19 credit — leaving customers having paid $1 to stream it. (Watch the company describe its service here.) The studios claim the site's model threatens legitimate streaming sites.

VidAngel claims the studios' copyright concerns mask an effort to "eviscerate the 2005 Family Movie Act and prevent VidAngel from lawfully empowering parents and families to stream filtered content."

Birotte on Dec. 12 enjoined VidAngel from copying, streaming, transmitting or otherwise publicly performing or displaying any of the copyrighted works at issue. The streamer had asked the court to stay the order in its entirety pending a 9th Circuit appeal of the decision, claiming complying with the injunction puts its business at risk.

But Birotte stuck by his original decision.

"The Court specifically found that VidAngel’s service caused irreparable harm by undermining Plaintiffs’ negotiating position with licensees and also by damaging goodwill with licensees, some of whom had specifically referenced “unlicensed services like VidAngel’s...during negotiation meetings,'" writes Birotte. "[T]he Court holds that the balance of the hardships tips sharply in the favor of the Plaintiffs."

Further Birotte held that VidAngel failed to prove that the public is best served by a stay.

"As the Court noted in its Order, 'it is virtually axiomatic that the public interest can only be served by upholding copyright protections and correspondingly, preventing the misappropriation of skills, creative energies, and resources which are invested in the protected work," state Birotte.

VidAngel CEO Neal Harmon issued a statement Thursday in response to the decision.

“VidAngel has received the District Court’s denial of our stay request and is complying," says Harmon. "For the time being, movies will no longer be available for filtering. Because judges rarely grant a stay of their own orders, we fully expected the Court to rule this way, and had already commenced an expedited appeal of the preliminary injunction. VidAngel is now requesting an emergency stay of the injunction from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.”

The studios declined to comment on Harmon's statement and Birotte's decision, which you can read in full below.