Ninth Circuit to hear Garcia v Google case


The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit will today (December 15) hear the Cindy Lee Garcia and Google copyright case en banc—the full panel of 11 judges.

The case will determine whether an actor’s performance in a film is copyrightable.

The dispute centres on Garcia’s five second performance in the film Innocence of Muslims, which she was told was a different film titled Desert Warrior.

In the film her performance is dubbed with the line: “Is your Mohammed a child molester?” The film sparked protests across the globe among followers of Islam in 2012, when it was first uploaded to YouTube.

Garcia claimed that her performance was independently copyrightable and she had the right to halt the distribution of the film on video-sharing website YouTube.

Garcia’s claim for an injunction was rejected by the US District Court for the Central District of California. An attempt shortly after to register her performance at the US Copyright Office was also rejected.

The film was later removed after Garcia’s appeal for an injunction over the film was accepted by the Ninth Circuit.

Judge Alex Kozinksi for the Ninth Circuit said that Garcia granted the film makers an “implied licence to user her performance” in the film Desert Warrior, but that it was later violated when she appeared in the Innocence of Muslims.

The Ninth Circuit’s ruling has caused a stir among the industry. Film industry rights groups Screen Actors Guild and the International Documentary Association have filed amicus briefs opposing the recent ruling.

Digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation stated the ruling will “prompt abuse of the copyright system” and video sharing website Netflix said it would “wreak havoc with established copyright and business rules”. 

This story was first published on WIPR.

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit; Google; YouTube; Cindy Lee Garcia; copyright

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