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Order Restored—Copyright Claim to Individual Performance in “Innocence of Muslims” Fails

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on May 19, 2015 at 7:44 AM

The full en banc panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed the earlier three-judge panel decision concerning a claimed copyright in the notorious Innocence of Muslims film. The full panel rebuked—wisely—the earlier panel’s holding that Cindy Lee Garcia had an independent and enforceable copyright in her acting performance that would allow her to enjoin reproduction of the video (on YouTube, in particular). Garcia’s case failed both for threshold reasons of fixation, and larger issues of copyright and the First Amendment. The case is a sympathetic one, but the ruling that has now been overruled was an unworkable one that needed to be corrected. Many of the problems and ramifications of the earlier opinion that we have noted were echoed in the decision.

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Topics: Copyright Act, Libya, Digital Millennium Copyright Act, DMCA, Youssef, YouTube, Innocence of Muslims, prior restraint, 17 U.S.C. § 106, Cindy Garcia, Copyright, First Amendment, Google, Benghazi, work for hire

The Kunstmuseum Bern’s Agreement to Accept Gurlitt Inheritance—Analysis and Lingering Issues

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 24, 2014 at 12:07 PM

With the benefit of (a little) time after the initial announcement that the Kunstmuseum Bern had agreed to accept the inheritance of Cornelius Gurlitt, more information has become available about the agreement with Germany and Bavaria that paved the way for the museum’s decision.

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Topics: Hildebrand Gurlitt, Cornelius Gurlitt, Gurlitt Task Force, YouTube, Gurlitt Collection, Christoph Schäublin, Salzburg, Gurlitt, Restitution, Bavaria, World War II, Erklärung der Bundesregierung der Länder und der k, Kunstmuseum Bern, Washington Principles, Museums, Monika Grütters, Washingtoner Einkommen

Full Ninth Circuit To Rehear “Innocence of Muslims” Copyright Appeal, Could Right Earlier Panel's Error

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on November 13, 2014 at 11:08 AM

Fresh on the heels of accepting en banc review of the appeal over the constitutionality of the California Resale Royalties Act, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has decided to rehear Google’s appeal of the injunction against it after actress Cindy Lee Garcia claimed a protectable copyright in her performance of “Innocence of Muslims.” While, as before, one should hesitate to read too much into the mere fact of en banc review, the three-judge panel under review now stands a good chance of being overturned (as it should).

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Topics: Copyright Act, en banc, Libya, Youssef, YouTube, Innocence of Muslims, prior restraint, 17 U.S.C. § 106, Copyright, First Amendment, Cindy Lee Garcia, Fair Use, Google, Benghazi, work for hire

“Innocence of Muslims” Producer Answers Complaint to Contest Garcia Allegations, Effect on Copyright Argument Should be Minimal

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on May 28, 2014 at 10:32 AM

While the appeal by Google of an order to take down any copies of “Innocence of Muslims” awaits a decision by the Ninth Circuit on Google’s request for rehearing, there has been a development back down in the District Court. Cindy Lee Garcia initially sought a preliminary injunction against Google to remove the availability of the video on YouTube, but she also sued many whom she alleged was the producer of the movie—Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, aka Mark Youssef—alleging that she had acted in a project she never knew would be used for the ultimate film, and that her dialogue was dubbed with the words that later caused such uproar and deadly violence. When the preliminary injunction was denied by the District Court (in large part because of the court’s finding that she could not prevail on the merits of her copyright claim that she held an independent right in her acting performance), it appears that the remaining case was stayed as she went up on appeal of the injunction ruling.

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Topics: Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, YouTube, Innocence of Muslims, Mark Youssef, Copyright, independent performance, Cindy Lee Garcia, Google

Ninth Circuit Judge Asks for Panel Vote on Denial of Google’s Request for Stay in "Innocence of Muslims" Copyright Case

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 7, 2014 at 12:40 AM

After last week’s ruling (wrongly decided, in our view) that an actress in "Innocence of Muslims" is likely to prevail on her claim that she had an independently copyrightable performance distinct from the movie itself, anticipation has been high about what might happen next. Google (seeking not to take the video off YouTube) petititoned the original panel unsuccessfully for an emergency stay of the ruling pending petiton for rehearing or to the full panel of Ninth Circuit judges. That stay request was swiftly denied, except that Google was permitted to leave up clips that did not include Cindy Garcia’s performance.

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Topics: General Order 5.4(c)(3), YouTube, Innocence of Muslims, Cindy Garcia, Copyright, Ninth Circuit, Sydney Thomas, Google

"Innocence of Muslims" Copyright Decision Against Google Could Put Distribution of Nearly Any Movie at Risk

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on March 4, 2014 at 4:46 AM

Last year, the Ninth Circuit stood out amongst fair use decisions in its opinion in Seltzter v. Green Day, particularly in contrast to what has persuasively been dubbed the Second Circuit’s "know it when we see it" approach to transformativeness as annunciated in the Cariou v. Prince decision. By contrast, the potentially destabilizing effect of the Ninth Circuit’s highest profile copyright case in 2014 can scarcely be overstated. Unless and until the full court reverses a three-judge panel in Garcia v. Google, Inc., nearly every motion picture will be in peril of "infringement." The consequences for the First Amendment and for free expression would be devastating. Although it was not raised, expect fair use to come into play if the decision stands and the case heads back to the trial court. The film is clearly transformative precisely because the plaintiff argues that her performance was unknowingly changed in service of a message she found offensive.

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Topics: Walter Sobchak, Copyright Act, Feist, Prince v. Cariou, Libya, Digital Millennium Copyright Act, DMCA, Youssef, YouTube, Innocence of Muslims, Green Day, Seltzter v. Green Day, Nothing Compares 2 U, prior restraint, 17 U.S.C. § 106, Cindy Garcia, Copyright, Prince, First Amendment, Google, Sinead O’Connor, Benghazi, work for hire

Fair Use and DMCA Take Down—Lawrence Lessig Sues Over YouTube Use of “Lisztomania”

Posted by Nicholas O'Donnell on August 28, 2013 at 5:39 AM

One of the lurking issues in the murky waters of copyright fair use is the takedown notice provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 (the “DMCA”). The DMCA, codified at 17 U.S.C. § 512, implements two 1996 World Intellectual Property Organization treaties and absolves internet service providers (“ISPs”) who disable allegedly infringing content when notified by the copyright holder. In practice, this is known as a “takedown notice,” and serves to protect ISPs like YouTube from secondary infringement if a user posts something with infringing content (the easiest example being an unedited clip of a copyrighted movie). Copyright holders patrol the internet to various degrees, but § 512 gives the holders a tool to encourage compliance, and ISPs a way not to be sued out of existence.

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Topics: World Intellectual Property Organization, ISPs, Copyright Act, Digital Millennium Copyright Act, DMCA, Viacom, YouTube, Eldred v. Ashcroft, Lawrence Lessig, Copyright, 1998 Sonny Bono Copyright Extension Act, Liberation Party Music Ltd., 17 U.S.C. § 512, Fair Use, Harvard Law School

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About the Blog

The Art Law Report provides timely updates and commentary on legal issues in the museum and visual arts communities. It is authored by Nicholas M. O'Donnell, partner in our Art & Museum Law Practice.

The material on this site is for general information only and is not legal advice. No liability is accepted for any loss or damage which may result from reliance on it. Always consult a qualified lawyer about a specific legal problem.

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