Innocence of Muslims

Court: Actor Can't Force Removal of Innocence of Muslims Trailer

Performers can't use copyright law as a veto power.


Just in time for the Webbys!
Innocence of Muslims

The full 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has struck down a controversial ruling that forced YouTube to yank the trailer for the amateurish Innocence of Muslims movie. The clip, which portrayed Mohammed as a violent pedophile, inspired outrage in the Mideast, and the Obama Administration attempted to make it the scapegoat (incorrectly) for the terrorist attack on our consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left four dead.

But the actors in the movie apparently didn't know what they were actually filming. After they had performed their roles, their lines were dubbed over in the editing room, poorly. One actor, Cindy Lee Garcia, sued to have it censored from the Internet, making a very unusual copyright claim. Because words were put in her mouth that she didn't say, she wanted to assert an independent copyright claim as an actor in an effort to protect her image. In a surprise to experts on copyright and First Amendment law, a panel originally ruled in her favor. But today, the full circuit court said no. As much as we may empathize with her situation, imagine the can of worms that would be opened if performers could use copyright to censor performances. From Reuters:

The 9th Circuit said Garcia's argument "would enable any contributor from a costume designer to an extra to claim copyright in random bits and pieces" of a movie.

Garcia said she had received death threats due to the film, and while the court sympathized with her position it found that her copyright claims were weak.

"In this case, a heartfelt plea for personal protection is juxtaposed with the limits of copyright law and fundamental principles of free speech," the court wrote.

Garcia's lawyer said she's unlikely to try to appeal to the Supreme Court.

Below, Remy "imagines" a world where politicians control what's on YouTube: