VidAngel fights Hollywood bullies by adding Supreme Court attorney to 'legal dream team'

by Michael Foust |

LOS ANGELES (Christian Examiner) – VidAngel continued Monday adding to what it is calling its "legal dream team," bringing on board two more attorneys, including one who has argued six cases before the United States Supreme Court.

The addition of attorneys Peter K. Stris and Max Blecher means that VidAngel – which is being sued by Disney and three other Hollywood studios – now has four of the country's top legal minds heading into a critical Oct. 24 preliminary injunction hearing in federal court.

VidAngel offers a streaming service that allows families to watch movies free of profanity, nudity, violence and other content. The studios are trying to shut it down, arguing it is operating illegally without the proper license. VidAngel's attorneys say the company is protected by a 2005 federal law better known as the Family Movie Act.

Stris has argued six cases in front of the U.S. Supreme Court and already is scheduled to argue a seventh case during the upcoming term. In 2014, Reuters called him one of the 66 top attorneys who argue cases before the court.

"Like many disruptively innovative companies, VidAngel has become a target, and our firm has now been engaged because VidAngel is planning for a long fight against the studios' high-priced legal talent," said Stris, co-founder of Stris & Maher. "We look forward to being a part of an unprecedented team of attorneys who have banded together because we believe in the rights of families to watch what they want in their own homes."

The other new member of the team is Max Blecher, who is an authority on antitrust lawsuits. He is founder of Blecher Collins & Pepperman.

"The studios' repeated attempts to foreclose any means for VidAngel to offer its filtering service to families exposes the studios to significant liability," Blecher said.

Blecher will lead VidAngel's antitrust counterclaims against the studios. That counterclaim was filed after the four studios filed their initial suit this summer. The other three studios are Twentieth Century Fox, Warner Brothers and Lucasfilm.

VidAngel already had two leading legal advocates on its side:

  • David W. Quinto, a veteran intellectual property attorney who in the past represented the Academy Awards and the Producers Guild of America, and who was an annual attendee at the Oscars.
  • Baker Marquart, a law firm that won a copyright ruling for FilmOn, an Internet-based company.

VidAngel CEO Neal Harmon said his company has "been approached by leading legal minds" from across the country who "understand that the Family Movie Act absolutely makes a service like ours lawful."

Under the VidAngel model, a user buys a digital streaming movie for $20, and then sells it back, making the final price either $1 (SD) or $2 (HD) if it is kept for less than 24 hours. The company's slogan: "Watch movies however the bleep you want."

Although customers may not realize it, each movie they purchase has a corresponding physical DVD in the VidAngel library, which is critical to the company's legal argument.

"The Family Movie Act provides that if a homeowner buys a lawful copy of content – a DVD disk – that homeowner by law has a right to ask a third party – here, VidAngel – to filter content that that family finds objectionable," Quinton previously told the Christian Examiner. "And that the third party, here VidAngel, has the right to stream that content, filtered as requested and specified by the family to the family – provided that the third party never makes a permanent copy of the filtered content. That's what the law says. There is no requirement in there that the third party purchase any license. In fact, that would be a form of double charge."