SALT LAKE CITY — Provo-based movie filtering company VidAngel was dealt another blow Wednesday by the same federal court judge that imposed a preliminary injunction on the company late last year.
The company has been embroiled in a legal battle over copyright issues with a group of movie studio plaintiffs that includes Disney, Warner Bros., Lucasfilm (a Disney subsidiary) and 20th Century Fox.
Last December, a U.S. District Court issued a preliminary injunction against the company, barring it from filtering and streaming any content owned by the plaintiffs. VidAngel appealed that order to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit and argued its case before a three-judge panel in early June. Just days after that court appearance, the company announced it had revamped its business model and was now offering filtering services on top of a movie beamed from a licensed streaming service like Amazon or Netflix.
VidAngel also asked the U.S. District Court to review the original injunction, claiming that the technique behind the new business model did not violate the court’s preliminary injunction order. Before switching to the new system that filters a movie from a streaming service, VidAngel had been streaming filtered content from a disc.
In denying the motion to clarify, Judge André Birotte Jr. wrote that “VidAngel does not provide sufficient information for the court to determine exactly how VidAngel’s new service manages to copy movie streams without circumventing the technical protection measures that plaintiffs allege are part of each movie stream.”
“This is simply one issue among many that will be involved in determining whether VidAngel’s new service complies with the Copyright Act and the court’s preliminary injunction. Without further factual development on this issue, the court is not in the position to declare rights of the parties with regard to this new service.”
In a statement, VidAngel CEO Neal Harmon characterized the court’s decision as a “procedural ruling.”
“Judge Birotte’s denial of VidAngel’s motion today was based purely on procedural grounds and not on the merits of our case,” Harmon said. “Our attorneys are evaluating the decision and will decide next steps in the near future. It is important for everyone to note that this does not affect VidAngel’s new system, which is fully up and running, it simply delays our ability to provide customers with content created by the plaintiffs.”
A representative for the plaintiffs group contacted by the Deseret News declined to offer comment on the ruling.