Tuesday, May 19, 2015

9th Circuit En Banc Reverses Injunction Agaianst "Innocence of Muslims" On YouTube

In an en banc opinion in Garcia v. Google, Inc., (9th Cir., May 18, 2015), an 11-judge panel of the 9th Circuit dissolved a 3-judge panel's preliminary injunction (see prior posting) that had required Google to take down from YouTube all versions of the controversial video Innocence of Muslims that included the performance of misled actress Cindy Lee Garcia.  The injunction was sought by Garcia after she received death threats because her dubbed-over performance appeared to be criticizing the Prophet Muhammad.  Garcia claimed a copyright interest in the performance. The en banc majority held that the law and facts do not clearly favor her claim to a copyright in her acting performance, saying in part:
As Garcia characterizes it, “the main issue in this case involves the vicious frenzy against Ms. Garcia that the Film caused among certain radical elements of the Muslim community.” We are sympathetic to her plight. Nonetheless, the claim against Google is grounded in copyright law, not privacy, emotional distress, or tort law, and Garcia seeks to impose speech restrictions under copyright laws meant to foster rather than repress free expression. Garcia’s theory can be likened to “copyright cherry picking,” which would enable any contributor from a costume designer down to an extra or best boy to claim copyright in random bits and pieces of a unitary motion picture without satisfying the requirements of the Copyright Act
Judge Watford issued a concurring opinion and Judge Kozinski dissented. Electronic Frontier Foundation has further analysis of the decision.