In a sad development for people who like to watch movies but don’t want any of that cool violence, sex, cursing, or general adult themes, “clean” video streaming service VidAngel has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. This comes as VidAngel has been hit with a big lawsuit from basically every major studio—including Disney, 20th Century Fox, and Warner Bros.—over the way VidAngel’s service circumvented copy-protection systems and streaming movies without permission. In a press release, VidAngel CEO Neal Harmon said that filing for Chapter 11 will protect the company from the studios’ efforts “to deny families their legal right to watch filtered content,” and he adds that the company will continue to offer its existing filtering service “during the reorganization process.”
The “legal right to watch filtered content” comes from the Family Entertainment And Copyright Act of 2005, which legalized the development of technology that could censor specific things in movies. VidAngel argues that it falls within that because it’s technically “selling” copies of the movies to users when they order a DVD or stream, making it legal for the now-owner to filter it however they want, even though the user is then allowed to “sell back” the movie in exchange for most of the money they paid. The movie studios have argued—and the courts have agreed so far—that this doesn’t give VidAngel the right to break copy protection on retail DVDs or host unauthorized streams of filtered movies.
Whatever ends up happening to VidAngel, it does seem like there is some kind of market for something like this. Earlier this year, Sony announced a plan to release a small selection of its own movies with “clean” edits, though that plan came under fire when it turned out that some of the people who actually made those movies weren’t notified of the program beforehand. Judd Apatow in particular referred to the idea as “absolute bullshit” and told Sony to “shove the clean versions up your asses.” Eventually, the studio backed down and announced that it would only do the “clean” thing if the filmmakers approved.