'Innocence of Muslims' Filmmaker Surfaces With Potential Key Document (Exclusive)
A Google lawyer has met with Mark Basseley Youssef in jail. The controversial producer allegedly said he doesn't want the movie to be removed from YouTube and has provided evidence that potentially aids that hope.
Innocence of Muslims filmmaker Mark Basseley Youssef has made a surprising appearance in a civil lawsuit and has provided a potentially game-changing document as well as word that he still believes in the message of his anti-Muslim film and doesn't want it to be taken off of YouTube.
On Wednesday, he offered a declaration on the eve of a court hearing to discuss actress Cindy Lee Garcia's latest attempt to get a court order that compels YouTube to remove the controversial movie trailer.
Youssef, who is serving time in prison for using multiple names in violation of his parole, has furnished what he says is the "personal release" signed by Garcia. He says that he is prepared to testify under oath that it is the "cast deal memo" signed by the actress. A copy of his declaration is below.
Garcia has brought a federal lawsuit with a bold claim: She alleges that she is entitled to the copyright on her dramatic performance in the film and that by ignoring her takedown request, YouTube cannot lean on the safe harbor provision of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act because it failed to expeditiously remove the video.
Whether actors are entitled to a piece of the copyright when "authoring" their performances is a topic of debate in copyright circles, but the theory only holds weight if a performer hasn't signed a release form before working. That practice is customary in the film industry.
In this lawsuit, Garcia maintained that she and the other actors in the film hadn't signed anything -- which makes the appearance of a release form months after she first brought a lawsuit shocking.
The release that has been produced by Youssef and allegedly signed by Garcia states:
"I, the undersigned, hereby grant permission to Sam Bessi [a Youssef alias] ("Producer") to photograph me and to record my voice, performances, poses, acts, plays and appearances, and use my picture photograph, silhouette and other reproductions of my physical likeness and sound as part of the ____ tentatively titled ____ ("the Picture") and the unlimited distribution, advertising, promotion, exhibition and exploitation of the Picture by any method or device now known or hereafter devised in which the same may be used, and/or incorporated and/or exhibited and/or exploited."
Additionally, if the release is genuine, Garcia agrees not to bring many legal claims against Youssef and his licensees.
Google's outside lawyer Timothy Alger also has filed a declaration indicating that Garcia's attorney is questioning the authenticity of the release.
In his declaration, Alger says he confirmed that the phone number on the release belongs to Garcia and also had an investigator confirm the Social Security number as belonging to the plaintiff.
After being unsuccessful in getting Garcia to voluntarily drop her case, Alger says he visited Youssef on Tuesday in a prison facility in downtown Los Angeles. Alger reports that Youssef is being segregated from the main population at this facility and is unable to visit with friends or family.
After reviewing a copy of the alleged Garcia release, Youssef also told Alger that he was willing to testify that Garcia worked for two hours on the film on a single day, that she was paid $75, that she was called back and worked an additional hour and paid an additional $100.
Youssef also claimed credit for the film, maintaining that it was his creation and that he retains control over the film.
According to Alger, "Mr. Youssef said he believes in the message contained in the film, and he does not want the trailer to be removed from YouTube."
Garcia has maintained that the film's continued existence has been emotionally damaging, leading to numerous death threats. Earlier this week, an Egyptian court sentenced in absentia Youssef and six others to death for their involvement in Innocence of Muslims.
Cris Armenta, the attorney for Garcia, is irate at the latest development and is blasting Google.
She tells The Hollywood Reporter, "My client and her legal term are appalled that Google and YouTube are relying on the testimony of a convicted fraudster, who has already been determined by a federal court to have lied repeatedly to the United States government office and the probation office."
Here is Youssef's declaration:
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org; Twitter: @eriqgardner
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