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VidAngel ordered to pay $62 million for family-friendly video piracy

Photo: Walter Bellamy (Getty Images/Express)

Several years ago, “clean” video streaming platform VidAngel was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after it got hit by a lawsuit from Disney, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Bros. for violating copy-protection systems and illegally streaming videos without permission. VidAngel’s whole service is based on offering content that you can find at other places but with all of the violence, sex, and adult situations edited out, which it argued that it could do because of 2005's Family Entertainment And Copyright Act (which legalized technology that does this specific thing). VidAngel would essentially rip retail DVDs, edit out the “offensive” stuff, then allow users to “rent” those edited versions by selling them a copy (sometimes for as little as $1, which is much less than on non-clean” services) and then “buying it back” when the users were done.

So, while editing a movie to cut out the bad stuff is fine, the movie studios came along and argued that selling these edited copies—with the studios themselves totally cut out—is just glorified piracy. Now, as reported by Variety, a jury has agreed with that interpretation, ruling in favor of Disney, Fox, and Warner Bros. in their copyright infringement suit against VidAngel. The studios initially asked for the maximum penalty for illegally pirating the 819 movies in VidAngel’s “clean” library, which would’ve come out to $125 million, but VidAngel’s side argued that it legitimately thought its business model was legal and shouldn’t be punished so harshly. In the end, the jury went with a slightly more manageable $62.4 million, which Variety says is still enough that it will force VidAngel to go into liquidation if it stands up through appeals.


VidAngel is still running a platform that filters naughty bits out of Netflix and Amazon content, but a judge ordered it to shut down the DVD-ripping and reselling service years ago.

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