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Hollywood Studios Win Injunction Against Streaming Service VidAngel

Start-up lets users filter unwanted language, sex and nudity from movies and stream them for $1 each

A U.S. district judge has granted a preliminary injunction against streaming service VidAngel on behalf of Walt Disney Co., Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox Film and Warner Bros. Entertainment, who filed a lawsuit in June accusing the company of illegally ripping DVDs and streaming without a license.

The Provo, Utah-based start-up allows people to stream cleaned-up versions of movies including “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” and “Deadpool” for $1 each by filtering out unwanted language, sex and nudity.

In the complaint, the studios asked the court to block VidAngel from violating their copyrights, the L.A. Times reported.

Having gained support from families and religious groups for offering sanitized films, VidAngel managed to bypass copyright regulations by allowing users to purchase new movies for $20.

Then the consumer could sell back the movie for a $19 credit — thus only spending $1 on a movie rental, which is far cheaper than other online rental services.

VidAngel’s lawyers claim they are protected by 2005’s Family Movie Act, according to the L.A. Times, and say that the studios just simply don’t like them altering their films.

On Tuesday, CEO Neal Harmon issued a statement regarding the company’s future: “The legal battle for filtering is far from over,” he said. “We are seeking a stay of the injunction, and are appealing the judge’s decision. But as we fight through the legal process, VidAngel will continue to be America’s home for family-friendly content.

“That’s why today we’re announcing the launch of VidAngel Studios — something we have been working on for years. Beginning in 2017, we’ll offer original family-friendly content, with technical innovations that will provide a unique experience,” Harmon announced.

However, the court does not appear to agree.

“Plaintiffs have shown a strong likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that VidAngel has violated, and continues to violate [copyright law] by circumventing technological measures that effectively control access to Plaintiffs’ copyrighted works and DVDs and Blu-ray discs,” Judge Andre Birotte Jr. wrote in his order granting the injunction on Monday.

The concept of VidAngel was born in 2012 when brothers Neal and Jordan Harmon began adding filters to licensed movies on YouTube and Google Play.

“Producers and directors should have the personal freedom to create whatever movies and TV shows they choose. We condemn censorship of their content in the public sphere,” the company’s website proclaims.

“But individuals, in the privacy of their homes, should have the personal freedom to watch that content in the way they choose. That right is protected by law,” the site continues.

“That’s why VidAngel does not claim to be a moral authority. We will never tell you what to watch or what filters to use when watching a movie or TV show. You have the choice to watch however the BLEEP you want. VidAngel just facilitates that your personal choice.”