Is there anyone who doesn’t sympathize with the actor Cindy Lee Garcia, who was baldly deceived into appearing in the abhorrent anti-Islam film “Innocence of Muslims”?
The filmmaker, a shadowy character who goes by three different names, told Garcia she’d be appearing in “Desert Warrior,” an adventure movie set in the Middle East. Instead, he overdubbed her lines to make it appear as though the actress was accusing the prophet Mohammed of pedophilia, and included her brief scene in a screed so incendiary that it inspired riots in Egypt and elsewhere in the Muslim world.
Targeted by death threats, Garcia eventually sued Google to force its YouTube unit to block the video. In February, she won a ruling from a divided three-judge panel at the 9th U.S. Court of Appeals, ordering Google to take down the film because Garcia was likely to prevail on her claim that ‘Innocence’ infringes her copyright on her individual performance.
The 9th Circuit opinion, written by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, set off a furor of its own in the film industry, in which hundreds of individuals contribute to a single finished product. Could any one of them – actors, set designers, makeup artists – block distribution of a movie by crying infringement? In March, when Google’s lawyers at Hogan Lovells petitioned for a rehearing before the entire 9th Circuit, they pointed out that the panel’s ruling was at odds with the U.S. Copyright Office’s policy – and with the Copyright Office’s brand-new determination that Garcia is not entitled to a copyright on the performance that showed up in “Innocence.”
This week was the deadline for amicus briefs on Google’s petition. And if Garcia felt alone and exposed before, she must feel even more so now.