On Monday, a California jury ordered the Utah-based VidAngel to pay a whopping $62.4 million in damages to four Hollywood studios. The faith-based company’s CEO, Neal Harmon, is calling the decision “entirely unfair.”
During a phone interview Tuesday with Faithwire, Harmon argued the jurists’ decision is wrong “considering we made the studios money.” He later noted VidAngel never intentionally, in his view, violated the law.
Harmon has argued consistently that VidAngel was well within the purview of the Family Movie Act, which allows for movie filtering during playback.
That, however, is not at all how Disney Enterprises Inc., LucasFilm Ltd. LLC, Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp. or Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc. see it. The four studios slapped VidAngel with a lawsuit in June 2016.
Following the suit, a preliminary injunction was issued in December of the same year, forcing the company to stop streaming movies filtered from DVDs. The case was then delayed when, in October 2017, VidAngel filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
VidAngel was founded in 2014 and offered customers the opportunity to stream big-budget films sans the nudity, violence, and profanity commonplace in Hollywood movies. In order to offer that possibility, KSL-TV reported, the company would purchase DVDs, circumvent the film’s “technological protection measures” by decrypting and then filtering the movies, and then allowed customers to stream the edited copies before they were even available on mainstream streaming services, like Hulu or Netflix.
Harmon, though, maintains there was no nefarious intentions on the part of the VidAngel team. Asked if he believes the company was targeted for its faith-based underpinnings, Harmon said, “I don’t know whether to go that far with this.”
“From my perspective, we did not get a fair trial,” he continued. “There’s always two sides to every story and the other side will argue otherwise. But we have a number of issues that we plan to appeal.”
He added VidAngel is banking on Monday’s verdict — which cost less than the $125 million in damages initially requested by the four major studios — being overturned or “seriously reduced.”
A message for customers
Regardless of what happens, though, Harmon admitted Monday’s court ruling “is not a good outcome for VidAngel,” adding consumers who have used the company’s services before “have every justification to feel concerned.”
“We’ve made a commitment to our customers that we would take this all the way to the Supreme Court if necessary,” he said. “We will do our part, and if the system rules against us, then it won’t be because we haven’t done our very best to fight for the rights of families throughout this country and for a better media experience.”
As far as projects currently underway at VidAngel, like the popular show “The Chosen,” Harmon assured customers and fans those programs will continue as planned, noting the series is slated to begin production on the next four episodes July 1.
Even in the midst of this monstrosity of an uphill legal battle, Harmon sounded hopeful.
“Nothing important in this world,” he said, “has ever happened without serious adversity. And we’re experiencing serious adversity, and it shows in the things that we’re creating, how important this is to us.”