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Regardless of the political spin surrounding the “Innocence of Muslims,” a legal battle continues in the United States.
In an interesting twist, Cindy Lee Garcia, an actress who appeared in the anti-Muslim film that led to protests around the world, sought an emergency injunction. Garcia’s request to have the video removed from YouTube was rejected last month by Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Luis Lavin. Garcia was unable to serve a copy of the lawsuit to Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the man who reportedly produced the 14-minute film, and Judge Lavin also denied the request because it lacked a likelihood of success.
Garcia isn’t the only one who wants the video removed. Google, YouTube’s parent company, has denied the White House’s request to remove “Innocence of Muslims” from its searches.
Still, the battle is not over for Garcia. She re-filed in federal court. In addition to her earlier claims of fraud, unfair business practices, and libel, Garcia enters the world of copyright. Garcia’s theory is that actors are entitled to a piece of copyright because of their performances. Garcia aims to convince the federal courts a la Fleet v. CBS, Inc, a California state appellate decision. There, though actors claims were preempted by federal copyright law, the court said, “the creative aspects of the motion picture as a whole must be separated from the creative aspects of the underlying subject matter (the actors’ performances in the film) to determine whether the underlying subject matter is itself copyrightable.” Garcia said she was tricked into her appearance and that she never signed a waiver.
There is also an issue regarding who actually owns a copyright. Chris Armenta, Garcia’s attorney, recently informed Google’s counsel that Nakoula does not own the rights to the film and Garcia’s position is that YouTube has the duty to locate the copyright holder given Garcia’s allegations. This raises the question of whether YouTube ought to be the de facto referee in ongoing copyright battles. Meanwhile, YouTube seeks to remain as neutral as possible while handling takedown requests.
Though Garcia has copyright hurdles and the strength of YouTube ahead, interesting free speech and performers’ rights issues are at stake.
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