Senator Mike Lee plans to clarify Family Movie Act after VidAngel lawsuit

Utah Sen. Mike Lee plans to introduce clarifications to the 2005 Family Entertainment and Copyright Act following controversy sparked by a lawsuit against content-filtering company VidAngel. (Sen. Lee’s Office)

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, plans to update legislation that would protect families’ rights to filter content in the wake of VidAngel’s legal conflict with movie studios like Disney.

A permanent injunction was issued against the Provo-based content-filtering company Thursday, Sept. 12, prohibiting VidAngel from conducting any more content filtering of movies owned by the plaintiffs and related entities. VidAngel may still filter movies owned by other studios like Sony, Paramount, Amazon or Netflix. VidAngel has partnered with Lee to help clarify the Family Entertainment and Copyright Act of 2005, also known as the Family Movie Act, a law that gives viewers the right to control movie content in their homes.

The proposed clarifications would include language that allows the filtering of streamed content. The summary of the bill on the United States Congress website states that “the bill allows an individual to make limited portions of a motion picture imperceptible during the individual’s private viewing.”

Despite the law, filtering companies like VidAngel have still had difficulty providing their services.

VidAngel lawyer David Quinto said, “The hope of the Family Movie Act of 2005 was to make filtering entertainment for families easy, convenient and inexpensive. That has not happened.” Quinto plans to appeal the permanent injunction filed against VidAngel.

Lee’s intervention could lead to the first win in a streak of losses the company has experienced during its three-year legal battle.

University of Utah media law professor Ben Whisenant stated that the amended law could make a large impact on both movie studios and filtering companies.

“If Mike Lee is able to get Congress and the Senate to expand the scope of the Family Movie Act, VidAngel will be able to make a bigger impact in its filtering service,” he said.  

Whisenant said the plausibility of this, however, is unlikely.

“There will be lots of pushback from other politicians and movie studios,” he said.

VidAngel CEO Neal Harmon addressed subscribers and supporters in a video on the company’s Legal Battle Archives blog, saying, “There is still cause for hope.”

While speaking of the successful passing of The Family Movie Act of 2005, Harmon said, “It can happen again.”

In the concluding moments of the video, Harmon called for supporters to speak out and donate to the Parents Television Council, an advocacy group that supports at-home content filtering.

Archives regarding VidAngel’s legal battle and Harmon’s video can be found on the company’s blog.

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