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Friday, July 12, 2024 | Back issues
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Parties Weigh In on|’Innocence of Muslims’

(CN) - Nearly a dozen briefs were filed challenging an actress' copyright claim for her performance in the online film "Innocence of Muslims," which sparked international protests, some of them deadly.

The documentary is by writer-producer Mark Basseley Youssef aka Nakoula Basseley Nakoula aka Sam Bacile. Actress Cindy Lee Garcia in 2012 filed a lawsuit to force Google to remove "Innocence of Muslims" from YouTube, claiming she had received several death threats for her role.

Garcia claims she never agreed to appear in the film, but was paid $500 to appear in another project, "Desert Warrior," which Youssef never completed.

Garcia says Youssef spliced her performance into "Innocence of Muslims" so that she appears to ask Muhammad if he is a "child molester."

Garcia claimed a copyright for her performance in "Desert Warrior," but U.S. District Court Judge Michael Fitzgerald in 2012 ruled in favor of Google, owner of YouTube.

Garcia appealed to the 9th Circuit, which reversed Fitzgerald's decision in a 2-1 ruling in 2013. The majority opinion by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski said Garcia met the requirements as an actress to make her performance "fixed" and copyrightable as. Kozinski said the matter is "debatable" but Garcia likely would prevail.

Google challenged the majority opinion, and the matter now is before the full 9th Circuit.

The International Documentary Film Association says in its amicus brief that "the urge to find a remedy for one harmed person threatens to stunt the growth of creative films and deprive the public of works of tremendous insight, inspiration and importance" and that Garcia's performance "does not qualify as a work of authorship" deserving copyright protection.

Writing in support of Google, Professors of Intellectual Property Law say Congress grants copyright protection only for authors of written works.

"The writing requirement ensures that copyright is granted only in fully actualized works with boundaries that distinguish them both from other works and from non-copyrightable ideas," the professors say in their brief. "The authorship requirement ensures both that each protected work will have a clearly identified initial owner who can authorize its use, and that this owner will be the person responsible for creating the 'writing' - the fixed form that renders the work distinct and eligible for protection."

Also filing briefs were Netflix, Adobe Systems, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the Computer and Communications Industry Association, Internet Law Professors, Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts, and others. Eleven briefs were filed on Nov. 25.

An Arabic-language version of "Innocence of Muslims" went viral in 2012, sparking outrage and deadly protests in several Muslim nations.

President Barack Obama cited the online film as the cause of the Sept. 11, 2012, attacks on the U.S. Embassy and a compound in Benghazi that killed four people, including U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens.

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