'Innocence Of Muslims' Actress Brings Copyright Lawsuit Against YouTube
As initially reported in OnlineMediaDaily on September 28, the actress who says she was duped into appearing in the anti-Muslim film The "Innocence of Muslims," has filed a new lawsuit demanding that YouTube remove clips of the film.
Cindy Lee Garcia says in her latest complaint, filed this week in federal court in the Central District of California, that YouTube is infringing her copyright in the work by displaying a 14-minute trailer for the film. She is seeking an injunction ordering YouTube and the film's producer, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, to stop displaying the clips.
Earlier this month, Garcia sued YouTube and Nakoula in state court in California. She alleged in that case that YouTube and the producer are violating her right to control the commercial use of her image. Last week, Judge Luis Lavin refused to order the site to take down the clip.
Garcia alleges in her latest court papers that she answered a Backpage casting call for what she believed would be an ancient adventure film called "Desert Warrior." She alleges that she never spoke the dialogue that's in the clip. Instead, it was dubbed in after filming.
"It is obvious that the words heard on the film are not consistent with the way in which plaintiff's mouth moved," she says. She adds that the dubbed lines are "repugnant, vile and hostile," and that she wouldn't say those lines "in any context, even in the course of a performance."
A trailer for the film has sparked protests in the Mideast, including a deadly attack on the American consulate in Libya. Garcia has said she received death threats since the film was posted to YouTube, and that she lost her job due to security concerns triggered by her appearance in the movie. YouTube has blocked access to the clip in Egypt and Libya, but it remains available in the U.S. and other countries.
For Garcia's newest legal gambit to work, she will have to convince a federal judge that she owns the copyright in her performance. That could be difficult, according to Santa Clara University law professor Eric Goldman. "I'm skeptical that there's any legitimate basis for her to assert a copyright interest in the video," he says.
Copyright protects works of authorship that are fixed in a medium. Even if Garcia authored the performance, she wasn't the one who "fixed" it on film, Goldman says.
Garcia's lawyer, Chris Armenta, points to a 1996 California state appeals court ruling that implies actors can own a copyright in their performances. But the court didn't decide whether copyright was infringed in that case; instead the judges said the case belonged in federal court, which is empowered to decide copyright issues.
The producer of the clip was jailed on Thursday for allegedly violating his probation on a previous criminal conviction for bank fraud. Among other charges, Nakoula is accused of lying to government officials about his role in creating and producing the film, according to the Los Angeles Times.