The U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower court’s standing order barring VidAngel, from content filtering others’ productions so as to avoid creating“ a giant loophole in copyright law.”
Analysts saw the court ruling as a win for Hollywood studios. Disney, Warner Bros. and Twentieth Century Fox had battled VidAngel in recent months over the firm’s naughty behavior, buying single copies of Hollywood films, and then purportedly “cleaning” them of pornography, nudity, and violence, and then offering them through its service to subscribers. A federal judge already had ruled this violated studio copyrights and told VidAngel to stop. The company hasn’t helped itself with the court by, at one point, defying the judge’s order.
So what’s Hollywood’s persistent beef with versions of its works that are less racy, explosion- and gore- filled, and over all more family friendly? After all, as the online site Vox has noted, studios long have bowdlerized their own creations to appeal to wider, more lucrative audiences—and to keep out of harm’s way with occasionally powerful blue noses.
Court won’t open legal loophole
“But,”ruled federal appellate Judge Andrew D. Hurwitz in the VidAngel case, “virtually all piracy of movies originates in some way from a legitimate copy. If the mere purchase of an authorized copy alone precluded infringement liability under [copyright licensing law], , the statute would severely erode the commercial value of the public performance right in the digital context, permitting, for example, unlicensed streams which filter out only a movie’s credits.”
If VidAngel’s sanitizing of films were allowed in violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA),the court pointed out, “VidAngel’s interpretation would create a giant loophole in Copyright Law, sanctioning infringement so long as it filters some content and a copy of the work was lawfully purchased at some point.”
Family film night’s future?
So what’s the future of family movie night? I remember while growing up that our household’s Friday nights, the only night when we were allowed pizza and other junk food for dinner, revolved around a movie —which was never easy to pick and prompted lots of discussion. The movie had to be appropriate for us kids but not annoying or boring for our parents. They suffered through a lot of kiddy movies over the years, but maybe that’s part of parenting, right?
For kids, however, there is a growing body of research indicating that excessive exposure via movies and other media to tawdry and rough content may cause harms. And while services like VidAngel may be one tech-based option, there’s another classic. It makes this sound on devices, “click.” With Hollywood suffering through one of its worst-ever summer box office seasons, studio moguls just may be more receptive (or not) to creative re-thinking about how to lure and engage the big audiences needed to support the big-dollar studio-based empires. Families once were among their key audiences, and smutty, violent pictures, whether they’re straight from comic books and sequels, may not be an E-ticket any more.