Look for the legal battle over the video-streaming of movies and TV shows from which objectionable moments have been filtered to heat up in advance of an October 24 hearing in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California in Los Angeles. On Monday, VidAngel — a Utah-based streaming service that was sued in June by Disney, Lucasfilm, 2oth Century Fox and Warner Bros — said it will bolster its legal team with the addition of Maxwell Blecher, a noted antitrust lawyer, and Peter Stris, a prominent business litigator known for his Supreme Court work.
Blecher and Stris join a legal team that already includes David Quinto, who long represented the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences and is now general counsel to VidAngel, and the Baker Marquart firm. The studios are represented by a team from Munger, Tolles and Olson, which has long handled high-stakes Hollywood litigation.
Blecher represented the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in a fight with the NFL. Stris helped to defend Barnes & Noble in a legal battle over e-books.
The studio complaint against VidAngel, and a subsequent cross-complaint against the companies, promises a collision over the interpretation of copyright laws and the Family Movie Act of 2005. Under the act, films or shows in home entertainment formats can be sanitized for private viewing, at least in some circumstances. But the companies claim VidAngel steps beyond the act, with its practice of selling discs to a consumer for, say, $20, but buying them back after an editing viewing for $19, creating a cheap stream of films like Inside Out, Frozen, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, The Martian and San Andreas.
VidAngel’s expanded legal team is virtually certain to step up a counter-offensive that in July brought a counter-claim that accused the studios of conspiring to violate anti-trust laws.