Federal appeals court rejects VidAngel’s request to let it filter movies

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SALT LAKE CITY — A federal appeals court has rejected a request by Utah-based movie filtering service VidAngel to allow it to continue streaming and filtering films as it fights litigation leveled by four Hollywood studios.

In an order issued Wednesday, a panel of judges from the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in California refused to grant VidAngel’s request for an emergency stay, allowing them to continue offering their services to customers. The court will continue to hear an appeal of a lower court judge’s ruling, granting a restraining order sought by the studios.

Last week, VidAngel announced it was no longer streaming and blocking profanity, sex, nudity and other content deemed “objectionable” while the litigation moves forward after a federal judge in Los Angeles ruled against it. The company has been battling the litigation since Warner Bros., LucasFilm, Disney and 20th Century FOX sued it, alleging copyright and licensing violations.

VidAngel has repeatedly insisted it has done nothing illegal, arguing that its customers own physical copies of films being streamed and filtered. It has rallied its customers and supporters as it fought back against the lawsuit. The company has vowed to challenge the lawsuit, going to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary.

In a statement released Wednesday, VidAngel CEO Neal Harmon called on the company’s supporters to call members of Congress to ask for an update to the Family Movie Act.

“Congress passed the Family Movie Act in 2005 because Hollywood had sued every company that offered content filtering for private, in-home viewing. Today, a small group of Hollywood studios, led by Disney, is using the legal process to try to render that law meaningless.

“We are asking our supporters to call their members of Congress and urge them to update to the Family Movie Act with new language that cannot be misconstrued in court, making it even clearer that filtering is absolutely legal in the streaming age.

“We are disappointed by today’s decision, but remain optimistic about our long-term prospects on appeal. Until our appeal is decided, we regret that VidAngel will not be able to offer filtered content. We continue to be grateful for the massive outpouring of support from across the country.”

The studios sought a preliminary injunction while the case was litigated, shutting off VidAngel’s service. A federal judge granted the studios’ request for the restraining order, and they accused VidAngel of violating the order by adding titles.

Judge Andre Birotte Jr. has scheduled a Friday hearing in Los Angeles on a demand by the studios for contempt sanctions against VidAngel.