Disney, the studio built upon family entertainment, has fought against families controlling the content their children consume.
The announcement was made last week that the family-oriented entertainment company Vid Angel was rolling out a new version of their service. The Utah-based entity has been in the business of offering parents the chance to control the content in the movies and television shows they allow into their homes. What Vid Angel specializes in is a form of digital filtering, where parents can elect what portions of a film are removed, as they deem what is inappropriate for their progeny.
The small entertainment company has endured a tortuous legal history. Hollywood studios are, shall we say, unthrilled with this in home editorial control, and the monolithic Disney company has been spearheading the legal fight against the service. At the center of the lawsuit is the practice Vid Angel employed for their service. Customers purchased a DVD that has been edited to their standards, for a $20 fee. Once finished the disc could then be sold back for a $19 price, effectively serving as a rental price.
The studios argued that what Vid Angel was doing, via decryption of the discs to edit, was a copyright infringement. In its defense VA countered that the decryption they were performing was the same function as a DVD player, and that their service was no different than had a parent employed the fast-forward button on the remote.
It was six months ago that a consortium of studios — Disney, 20th Century Fox, Warner Brothers, and LucasFilm — successfully won an injunction against the company, forcing its filtering website to be taken down. Vid Angel was about to fade away like numerous similar filtering services that have been shut down, except for two factors.
The first was the company began creating its own content for its platform. Original productions and a host of comedy specials were offered up for customers, as they looked forward. In court arguments the Disney-led lawyers made the contention that the primary thrust of their opposition to the service concerned that decryption of DVDs. Streaming was not the issue, and that format became the focus of the executives.
This week Vid Angel announced after long months it was returning in an all digital version. The new iteration of the service will work with accounts on NetFlix, Amazon Prime, and HBO. Families that subscribe will have a service that sits on top of their streaming account, and they can select various options on how they prefer the selected content to be filtered. Before playback, selections are made by viewers as to what they would prefer to be filtered out in their home — they can make several choices as to the type of language, the forms of violence, and other dramatic content they prefer to avoid displaying for their children..
This should not be an arguable version for studios, as they will still be receiving full royalties and the only alteration of their product is done in-home, by the customer. It is literally a digital fast-forward button. For now, the four majors will still have their content barred, as Vid Angel seeks to lift the injunction on their streaming model. They will petition the court that this new service differs greatly from the DVD arguments made by the Big 4.
What the studios fail to acknowledge is that a service of this nature actually can expand their customer base. Families that would not otherwise consider viewing a title will be more willing to do so. Additionally, it broadens the availability of those films rated PG-13, or even Rated-R, as parents would be able to personally sanitize the offensive content, all while the studio still enjoys the royalties from a rental or purchase.
As of now the Vid Angel executives are hesitant the studios will relent in court. Their experience has been that Disney prefers they be the ones who dictate the content allowable into your home. For an entity purportedly at the vanguard of family entertainment it speaks volumes how much they combat families on what their children can view.