Garcia v. Google, Inc.

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Copyright
  • Date Filed: 02-26-2014
  • Case #: 12-57302
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Chief Judge Kozinski for the Court; Circuit Judge Gould; Dissent by Circuit Judge N.R. Smith
  • Full Text Opinion

A trial court abuses its discretion in denying a preliminary injunction for the removal of a film available online in a copyright case when the video contains a performance that a plaintiff actress makes intentionally for a different film, and the plaintiff actress establishes: (1) a likelihood of success on the merits of her claim; (2) the likelihood of irreparable harm resulting from a denial of injunctive relief; and (3) a causal connection between the copyright infringement and the alleged harm.

Cindy Lee Garcia agreed to play a small role in a film called “Desert Warrior,” written and produced by Mark Basseley Youssef. Garcia received four pages of a script and $500. Instead of using Garcia’s scene in “Desert Warrior,” Youssef used it in a different film titled “Innocence of Muslims,” an anti-Islamic piece. The scene had been partially dubbed over, and Garcia appeared to be questioning Mohammed. Garcia learned of this after “Innocence” was uploaded to YouTube.com. Later, the film played on Egyptian television and protests broke out. Calling for everyone involved in the making of the film to be killed, an Egyptian cleric issued a fatwa. Garcia then began receiving death threats and requested that Google remove the film from YouTube. After other ineffective requests and legal actions, Garcia, in applying for a temporary restraining order, sought removal of the video, claiming the posted video infringed her copyright in her performance. The district court denied the restraining order on the grounds that: (1) Garcia had waited to bring the action; (2) she failed to demonstrate “…the requested preliminary relief would prevent any alleged harm;” and (3) she was unlikely to succeed on the merits. The Ninth Circuit found that Garcia proved she likely had a copyright interest in her performance, that Garcia’s acting was not covered by the work for hire doctrine, and that Youssef had exceeded any implied license he had possessed to use Garcia’s scene. Further, the panel held that because Garcia was subject to threats on her life and took action upon receiving those threats, she had established a likelihood that irreparable harm would result without injunctive relief. The panel also deemed Garcia’s proof of a causal connection between the copyright infringement and the harm sufficient. REVERSED AND REMANDED.

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