×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

SAG-AFTRA Defends Rights of Actors in ‘Innocence of Muslims’ Court Brief

SAG-AFTRA and other performers unions are weighing in on a lawsuit in which actress Cindy Lee Garcia’s  is seeking to force YouTube to remove the inflammatory “Innocence of Muslims” video that sparked protests in the Muslim world.

After YouTube refused to remove the “Innocence of Muslims” video, Garcia sought an injunction against the site, claiming that she had a copyright interest in her performance, even though she had only a minor role in the movie.

In an amicus brief filed with the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, the actors unions argue that court precedent has recognized that a performance copyrightable, and that in certain “rare circumstances,” actors can claim a separate copyright to their work. But they are not rendering a judgment on whether Garcia herself has a copyright claim to her brief appearance in the video, other than to note examples where even short performances can be sufficiently original to warrant copyright protection.

Google and other Internet companies have warned that should the 9th Circuit accept Garcia’s rationale, it’ll cripple distributors if they have to obtain clearances from even minor characters in a project.

But in their brief, SAG-AFTRA and other organizations argue that actors “are valued for their performance and the originality they bring for their respective roles. The actors imbue the lines with original expression that conveys emotion and brings the character to life.”

SAG-AFTRA is joined in the brief by the American Federation of Musicians of the United States and Canada, the International Federation of Actors and Actors Equity Assn., along with other organizations.

They cited a 2007 case in which the 9th Circuit used the Pink Panther films as examples of original expression, citing Peter Sellers’ performances along with Henry Mancini’s score and Blake Edwards’ direction. They argue that such a reference “places the actor’s performance at the same level as the composer’s musical work.”

They say that the fears expressed by Google are overwrought because so many performers are hired in an employer-employee relationship, in which an actors work is “made for hire” and they assign a copyright interest to the producer. That employer-employee relationship is recognized in SAG-AFTRA collective bargaining agreements. In other cases, the performer would be a joint author, with each author able to exploit a work non-exclusively.

The actors organizations, however, do not take a position as to whether Garcia’s performance “is properly considered her separately owned copyright or a joint work.” They do note that Garcia was not a SAG-AFTRA member.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals has scheduled an en banc hearing on Dec. 15.

Garcia said that she received death threats as the video sparked protests. She said that she was told that she was performing in a movie called “Desert Warrior,” yet the movie’s writer and producer, Mark Basseley Youssef, instead turned it into “Innocence of Muslims,” with her voice dubbed over so that she appeared to be asking, “Is your Mohammed a child molester?”

In a 2-1 ruling, a panel of the 9th Circuit sided with Garcia, with the majority disturbed by the idea that Garcia had no control over how her performance was being used. But last month, the 9th Circuit agreed to rehear the case in an en banc hearing.

 

More Biz

  • lucian grainge: cannes lions media person

    Vivendi in Talks With Tencent About Universal Music Sale (Report)

    In the 10 months since Vivendi confirmed that it is seeking a buyer for as much as 50% of Universal Music Group, the industry has watched analysts’ proposed valuations of the company balloon from an initial $22 billion to as much as $50 billion. But according to a report in Bloomberg, private equity investors have [...]

  • Guy Moot and Carianne Marshall on

    Guy Moot and Carianne Marshall on the New Warner Chappell (EXCLUSIVE)

    Even by music industry standards, publishing is a pretty small world: It’s an ultra-specialized area of the business and a tight community where pretty much everyone knows each other. But although the two co-chairs of Warner Chappell Music Publishing — former Sony/ATV president of worldwide creative Guy Moot and former SONGS publishing partner Carianne Marshall [...]

  • WGA Agency Packaging Fight Placeholder Writer

    Writers Guild Agrees to Resume Meetings With Talent Agencies

    The Writers Guild of America has agreed to resume negotiations with Hollywood’s talent agents, six weeks after talks between the two sides cratered. WGA West President David A. Goodman announced Wednesday night that the WGA had approved a proposal by UTA co-president Jay Sures to get back to the bargaining table. Sures had made the [...]

  • Contract Placeholder Business WGA ATA Agent

    Agencies Offer to Restart Talks With WGA to End Packaging Fee Standoff

    Hollywood’s largest talent agencies have offered to restart negotiations with the WGA to end the standoff over the guild’s effort to impose new rules on talent agents. In a letter to WGA West president David Goodman sent Wednesday, UTA co-president Jay Sures extended an olive branch and suggested resuming talks next week. UTA later sent [...]

  • Woodstock 50 Files Appeal Seeking Return

    Woodstock 50 Files Appeal Seeking Return of $18 Million From Former Financial Partner

    In the latest round of the ongoing legal battle between the organizers of Woodstock 50 and their erstwhile partners Dentsu Aegis, attorney Marc Kasowitz announced that the festival has filed an appeal for Dentsu to return some $18.5 million the financial giant withdrew from the organizers’ bank account. That money has been a point of [...]

  • Spider-Man Homecoming

    Film and TV Productions Are Using Drones for Scouting Locations, Lighting and More

    Since a ruling by the Federal Aviation Administration in 2014 that cleared the use of drones in film and TV production, the acquisition of footage by these unmanned flying machines has become de rigueur for aerial shooting in cases when cranes or aircraft are impractical or unsafe.  As such, drones have been greeted enthusiastically not [...]

  • White House Communications Director Hope Hicks,

    House Judiciary Committee Issues Subpoena for Fox Spokeswoman Hope Hicks

    The House Judiciary Committee has issued a subpoena for Hope Hicks, the Fox Corporation communications chief who previously worked as the communications director in President Donald Trump’s White House. The call for Hicks to appear before the committee was issued Tuesday. Hicks could not be reached for immediate comment on the matter. Hicks was in [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content