Family-oriented streaming service VidAngel submitted an appeal in the copyright case filed against them by Disney, Lucas Film, Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Brothers, and other film companies. VidAngel is represented in the suit by Call & Jensen, Apc. The plaintiffs are represented by Munger, Tolles & Olson.
The judge in the Central District of California ruled in March 2019 that VidAngel was liable for copyright infringement. A jury verdict set the number of damages at $62.4 million. VidAngel said they will be able to pay this over the next fourteen years if the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals does not rule in their favor. VidAngel announced its plans to emerge from bankruptcy last month, including its plan to appeal the decision in this case. VidAngel said one of the purposes of filing for bankruptcy was to pause the copyright lawsuit that they are appealing. VidAngel’s brief is due on July 10, 2020.
The complaint against VidAngel filed in June of 2016 said they charged users for watching content without authorization and did not pay for the rights to stream said content, blatantly violating the Copyright Act. The plaintiffs also claimed the ability to skip and mute words and images in films did not fall under what was allowed through the Family Movie Act of 2005. The companies claimed although VidAngel’s service looked similar to Netflix, Hulu or iTunes, it was “no different from many other unlawful online services,” because they did not have permission to copy and stream the shows. VidAngel claimed they were selling, not renting the films and so they had the rights.
VidAngel is providing its services to anyone through April to help contribute family-friendly videos if they agree to follow social distancing guidelines designed to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. This includes its original content and tools to filter content on Netflix and Amazon. They did not mention any impact COVID-19 would have on their plans to emerge from bankruptcy but have received traffic from offering free services. “During the last two weeks, we’ve been grateful that so many families have accessed VidAngel and enjoyed bringing us into their homes … Like so many wonderful American companies, we’re so happy to be able to pitch in some small way to make this difficult time a little easier,” said Neal Harmon, CEO of VidAngel.