Hollywood Docket: Google Replies to 'Innocence of Muslims' Lawsuit

2012-34 REP Cindy Lee Garcia H

The "Innocence of Muslims" actress loses her legal bid to force the anti-Islam film off YouTube amid claims she was duped into taking the job and has since received death threats.

Innocence of Muslims actress Cindy Lee Garcia and Google continue to fight over whether YouTube should be forced to take down the controversial video.

Both sides have submitted court briefs in anticipation of a Dec. 3 hearing.

Google says that Garcia simply can't make a valid copyright claim:

"Plaintiff did not produce the Film, direct the Film, or write the script," says Google in opposition of the motion for a preliminary injunction. "Plaintiff's contribution is a far cry from the 'artistic control' necessary to support a finding of authorship."

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Garcia's lawyer responds that a court finding that actors' performances on film are not protected by copyright law would be upsetting.

"Such a finding would turn the entire film industry upside down," says her legal papers filed on Monday. "The 'custom and practice' in the industry is that producers obtain releases from actors, which transfer the actor's copyright interests in their performances to the producers. It is because the law is so well settled that actors own a copyright interest in their performances the second they are fixed to a tangible medium (i.e., film) that this very custom and practice of obtaining releases exist."

Here's Google's brief, which argues that copyright law must not be used as a means of stifling speech about a matter of public concern. And here's Garcia's brief, which argues that copyright law is an exception to the First Amendment.

It's possible that a judge won't bother with the bigger questions in the lawsuit at the preliminary stage and just focus on whether there's irreparable harm from the continued existence of the video on YouTube.

In other entertainment law news:

  • Warner Bros. has settled a lawsuit brought by John Franco, a special effects worker who alleged that he was injured during the making of Green Lantern. In June, a judge denied the studio's attempts to escape the negligence lawsuit. Now, it's been resolved on confidential terms.
  • Lil Wayne has been fighting over the documentary The Carter since it first premiered at Sundance in 2009. Things aren't going well. A jury has now ordered the rapper to pay nearly $2.2 million to Quincy Jones III in a countersuit over the attempts to impede distribution. The judgment reportedly happened after Lil Wayne didn't show up at court. Previously in the case, Lil Wayne gave one hell of a deposition.
  • MIME Investments has filed a $4 million lawsuit against GK Films and Parlay Films for alleged fraud and misrepresentations on the film, Little Murder. According to the claims filed in Los Angeles Superior Court, the investors say they lost money when the defendants overinflated estimates of foreign sales.
  • Elton John and his lyricist Bernard Taupin have escaped a copyright infringement lawsuit brought by a photojournalists who claimed that lyrics from the 1985 song "Nikita" were taken from his own 29-year-old song. The judge said there were common themes like an impossible love affair during the Cold War in the two songs, but it didn't arise to infringement. "These themes are not protected under the Copyright Act because they are rudimentary, commonplace, and standard under the scènes à faire doctrine," says the ruling. "Moreover, phrases and themes that are common, trite, or clichéd are not protected under copyright laws."