Popular movie filtering service VidAngel has its back against the legal wall, and Hollywood is the bully that pushed it there. This past summer, several movie studios, including Disney, Warner Bros., and 20th Century Fox, sued VidAngel, claiming the small company was infringing on the studio’s exclusive rights under the Copyright Act and for violating the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. VidAngel asserts that they are legally operating under the umbrella of the 2005 Family Movie Act, and are acting as the guardian of consumer choice.
A federal judge last week found VidAngel in contempt of court and fined them $10,000. VidAngel CEO Neal Harmon issued a statement after the ruling saying he plans to take the case to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Complicating things is the fact that VidAngel tried to secure licensing agreements and attempted to purchase movies directly from the studios. The studios turned down VidAngel’s money, forcing the company to jump through a series of legal loopholes in order to provide what they like to call a “fancy remote control.” Those loopholes were provided by none other than Congress in the Family Movie Act, and were included in order to thwart Hollywood’s hatred of filtering services:
- The movie must be an authorized copy
- The movie must be watched in the privacy of a hom
- A permanent copy of the filtered movie cannot be made
Essentially, Congress stated that filtering services do not need Hollywood’s permission in order to operate. VidAngel happily complies with both the spirit and the letter of the Family Movie Act of 2005. That, of course, isn’t stopping Hollywood from attempting to sue VidAngel out of existence.
Why Hollywood would sue a company out of existence that actually makes them more money would be incomprehensible if history didn’t provide a pattern from which to draw a conclusion. Prior to the Family Movie Act of 2005, Hollywood sued every filtering service out of existence. In 2009, Hollywood also attempted to sue Redbox out of existence but lost. Unlike the filtering services, Redbox prevailed. Going all the way back to 1984, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Sony and against Universal City Studios. Universal City Studios claimed that Betamax video cassette recorders violated copyright laws. Consumers who enjoy their DVRs have the Supreme Court to thank for preserving their freedom of choice. Speaking of DVRs, in 2012, Dish TV was sued by several broadcast companies over the Hopper DVR. A federal appeals court eventually ruled in favor of Dish. It seems that every time a new innovation appears on the market that provides consumers with options, Hollywood throws a fit.
Now, for the record, as little as two weeks ago, I was considering pitching an article to my PJ Media editors about how VidAngel violates copyright laws and steals intellectual property by illegally altering intellectual property, arguing that Christians should stay far away from the service. Before I sent the pitch, however, I watched a video posted by popular Christian YouTube personality Joffre the Giant.
Joffre the Giant removed my internal squeamishness at editing “art” without the permission of the makers. His analogy of Michelin-starred restaurants versus McDonald’s was especially helpful. Needless to say, the arguments in the video resonated with me and caused me to look at filtering services in a completely different light. In turn, my change of opinion caused me to delve a little deeper into what was actually going on with VidAngel and Hollywood.
As my opening paragraphs indicate, it didn’t take me long to realize that Hollywood has always had a vendetta against consumer choice. Why is that? I’ll keep my speculation to myself and allow the readers to work out Hollywood’s motives for themselves—assuming, of course, that the readers haven’t had their opinions and perspectives skewed by movies and are still able to think for themselves. If, however, you have yet to succumb to the epistemological control of Hollywood and the liberal elites and are concerned about preserving consumer’s freedom of choice, specifically the right to filter content on movies that you legally rent, consider signing the petition linked here. People have differing opinions and beliefs about what content they want to be exposed to when watching movies, but we should all be able to agree that consumer choice is an important freedom to defend.