A small media firm has been crushed by two giants of the entertainment industry, but there's hope the situation will be reversed.
Walt Disney Co. and Warner Brothers filed suit against VidAngel, accusing the start-up company of copyright infringement. According to the Los Angeles Times, the process employed by VidAngel "relied on a quirky business model to stream movies without studios' permission. Instead of obtaining licenses, it purchased thousands of DVDs and Blu-rays to make them available to stream through its website."
Tim Winter of Parents Television Council explains that VidAngel thought it had followed federal law.
"VidAngel was trying to allow parents [the option] to filter the explicit content that comes into their homes – the sex, the violence, the profanity," he shares. "[They wanted to] allow parents at home to apply filters and screen out material that is harmful or offensive to their family values."
On Monday a Hollywood court found VidAngel guilty of copyright violations and awarded damages to Walt Disney Co. and Warner Brothers amounting to $62.4 million ($75K per infringement), forcing the small company into bankruptcy. VidAngel says it finds the court's ruling "unfortunate, but it has not lessened our resolve to save filtering for families." Its lawyers have already filed an appeal, and the company plans to "explore options in the bankruptcy court."
According to Winter, a "very Hollywood-friendly court" ruled in favor of Hollywood.
"So we're hoping that perhaps there's a different court that has a higher jurisdiction that could be a little bit more objective," he continues. "We also hope that the Congress steps forward to update the legislation that VidAngel believed it was operating under."
That's the Family Movie Act, which was passed 14 years ago and, according to Winter, needs to be revisited. VidAngel executives argued their company was protected from piracy accusations under that legislation, which allows consumers to tweak movies for personal viewing.
Winter adds that he finds it ironic that a company named after Walt Disney would sue into bankruptcy a company filtering out the filth and violence in its movies.