Federal appeals court considers whether to let VidAngel keep filtering movies

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah-based movie filtering service VidAngel is asking a federal appeals court to allow it to keep blocking profanity, sex and nudity from movies.

In arguments Thursday, VidAngel asked California’s Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to overturn a lower court judge’s restraining order that has essentially forced the company to stop filtering films.

“There was an obvious abuse of discretion in finding there was a likelihood of irreparable harm,” VidAngel attorney Peter Stris argued to the three judge panel.

Don Verilli, attorney for several Hollywood studios (lower right), argues before the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in their lawsuit against VidAngel. (Screen grab from Ninth U.S. Circuit Court video)

VidAngel runs a subscription-based model allowing customers to filter out material they find objectionable from films. They were sued by four major Hollywood studios (Disney, LucasFilm, Warner Bros. and 20th Century Fox) over copyright violations. VidAngel insists it has done nothing illegal, arguing that its customers own physical copies of films being streamed and filtered.

“Our physical disc streaming business was developed, this has always been our position, to avoid that studio veto precisely as the FMA (Family Movie Act) intended,” Stris said.

The studios contend the streaming must be licensed. Judge Andrew Hurwitz name-dropped Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch, telling Stris that congress could change the law to allow filtering if they so desired.

Don Verilli, an attorney for some of the studios, argued to keep the injunction against VidAngel in place, arguing a federal judge “saw VidAngel for what it is.”

“It’s an unlicensed, on-demand streaming service that lacks any legal justification and is totally unfair to us and to licensed streaming services,” he told the judges.

The Ninth Circuit Court judges took the matter under advisement.

Watch the arguments here: