VidAngel Asks Court to Revisit Pause on Its Service

VidAngel Screenshot - Publicity - H 2017
Courtesy of VidAngel

Despite repeated court losses, being found in contempt and filing for bankruptcy, VidAngel is still fighting to stream blockbusters on its family-friendly service.

The major studios joined forces in 2016 to sue VidAngel for copyright infringement, claiming its filtering service was really an unauthorized streaming platform. That fall, U.S. District Judge Andre Birotte Jr. granted a preliminary injunction that barred the service from offering films without the required licenses. In early 2017, VidAngel switched up its service in an effort to operate without violating the injunction, but neither the studios nor the court were convinced the new iteration was legal.

Since then, VidAngel has lost an appeal to the 9th Circuit, filed a counterclaim that was later dismissed, tried and failed to sue for declaratory relief in Utah believing it would be a more favorable forum and filed an adversary proceeding in bankruptcy court on the same issues, which is awaiting a decision on a motion to dismiss. 

In November, the studios asked the Utah bankruptcy court to lift the automatic stay on the California federal court fight. It agreed, and last month the studios refiled a motion for partial summary judgment on liability that is currently set for a hearing on Friday.

Last Friday, VidAngel again asked the court to revise the injunction and greenlight its revised service. It argues that the studios have threatened to seek contempt if it tries to offer movies for streaming "using a means not at issue in this litigation" and it wants the court to give it permission to do just that.

VidAngel wants Birotte to add this caveat to the 2016 order: "except that providing a motion picture filtering service that requires each of Defendant’s customers, or Defendant acting on its customers’ behalf, to pay a streaming service licensed to transmit motion pictures copyrighted by Plaintiffs to such consumers for private viewing shall not be deemed a violation."

The family-friendly streamer suggests the order would be without prejudice to the studio's rights to seek a finding of infringement or an injunction based on a showing of irreparable harm. (Read the full filing, below.) It also argues that the injunction as written is overbroad and prohibits all fair use of plaintiffs' works. 

In a case management statement also filed Friday, the studios indicated they will oppose the motion and said during a meet-and-confer that the streamer offered little legal support for its request. 

"VidAngel did not present any specific authority that permits such a motion to modify in light of the Court’s prior orders denying VidAngel’s motions for clarification," writes attorney Kelly Klaus. VidAngel filed that motion tonight. Plaintiffs do not see any authority that warrants a modification of the injunction in these circumstances."