After months of battling Disney and other Hollywood companies, independent streaming app VidAngel is back - this time with a brand-new service allowing viewers to watch filtered Netflix, Amazon and HBO content.
On Tuesday evening, Neal Harmon, CEO of the Utah-based company, made the big announcement before a Facebook Live audience of 50,000 and a room full of fans: "We have some really, really, really good news," he said. "VidAngel is back!"
The "New VidAngel" allows viewers to watch filtered content from Netflix, Amazon and HBO by signing into their streaming service account and using VidAngel to remove language, nudity and violence from movies and television shows.
The new service comes in response to the ongoing lawsuit filed against the company by four major Hollywood studios claiming VidAngel violated copyright laws.
"I can't say exactly what Hollywood wants, all I can see is their actions," Neal Harmon told The Gospel Herald after making the announcement. "In the case of VidAngel, it's the family who decides what to filter. Fundamentally, this is an issue of control and who has control. As a father, I feel like it just makes common sense that we should have control."
He added, "We're okay with directors filming movies and presenting them how they want. But, when it comes into our home, then we should have the choice on how we watch that content. They shouldn't have anything to do with what happens in our home as long as we are paying for it. That's essentially what VidAngel is fighting for - liberty for all."
VidAngel does not believe in censorship - they simply want to make the films that come out of Hollywood suitable for families. Through VidAngel, veterans with PTSD have the option to skip violent scenes, the faith-based community is able to filter scenes in a film that use the Lord's name in vain, and parents are able to filter sexual and adult content.
"So many families are unable to watch great, quality movies because of the nudity, profanity and violence included in them," Parents Television Council president Tim Winter told GH. "'Now, they can watch a great movie like 'The Martian' without the 'F' word. This allows people families who inherently know this stuff is harmful for their children to have the ability to block, but still enjoy."
He added that the new VidAngel is "this is the ultimate end choice for parents and families."
"This gives them the right to have absolute and total control in their homes over what parents are watching," Winter said. "I hope this can be expanded beyond movies into TV shows. We have business leaders who are trying to find a path that wins for families. They are unrelenting, and that's why the Parents Television Council is so in favor of this group."
As earlier reported by GH, VidAngel was last year hit with a lawsuit from Walt Disney Company, Lucasfilm, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Bros alleging that the family-owned company was infringing on their copyrighted material - even though the Family Movie Act of 2005 made it clear that filtering movies does not infringe on such laws.
According to the lawsuit, Disney and the plaintiffs sued for copyright infringement and for violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The plaintiffs contended that the filtering service did not have authorization to use their films and failed to pay for the licensing of titles.
In turn, VidAngel maintained they actively tried to obtain licenses from the companies but were ignored: "VidAngel is more than happy to purchase streaming license for lots of business reasons, but Hollywood is only willing to sell a streaming license without filtering," Harmon explained.
Determined to move ahead with the service despite opposition, VidAngel decided to launch a campaign to raise money for legal fees, raising over $10 million in just days.
At an appeal hearing last week, the Ninth Circuit heard VidAngel defense but has yet to rule. Currently, the company it is working with elected officials and organizations in Washington, D.C. to seek a resolution and in the meantime, is moving ahead with "The New VidAngel."
"The encouraging this about this is a company putting up a good fight," Bill Aho, a partner with The SagePoint Group and former CEO of the movie-filtering company ClearPlay told GH. "This is a company saying, 'We're going to take on Hollywood' and asking, 'Is it really about filtering?' Because all the other objections are off the table now. All the other reasons Holywood said 'We're litigating' are off the table."
He added, "This is a solution that does not involve copyright issues. It really gets down to what I think will be Hollywood's real reason, which will be, they don't like our values. They've always hidden behind another argument. Now, those arguments are becoming transparent."
The latest filtering system will be accessible on any major device for $7.99 a month with the first month free. For more information and to sign up for the innovative service, visit VidAngel.com.