Ninth Circuit Rules Acting Performance Independently Copyrightable and Not Part of Joint Work

Copyright SymbolIn what appears to be an appellate case of first impression, the Ninth Circuit has issued a remarkable decision in which the majority holds that an individual actor’s performance of a minor role in a motion picture is independently copyrightable, is not part of a work of joint authorship as embodied in the motion picture, and therefore the performance or distribution of the motion picture without the actor’s permission infringes the actor’s copyright, in the absence of a license.

This case involved the now-infamous Innocence of Muslims film, which offended a large segment of the Islamic community and led to riots and protests overseas.  According to the facts as set forth in the decision, the Plaintiff, Cindy Lee Garcia, was hired by an amateur film-maker to play a minor role in what he described as an action film titled Desert Warrior.  She was only given the four pages of the script in which her character appeared, and worked three and a half days on the set.  That footage was eventually used in an anti-Islamic film titled Innocence of Muslims, in which at least some of Ms. Garcia’s lines were dubbed over so that she appeared to ask whether Mohammed was a child molester.  When the film was aired on Egyptian television and uploaded onto YouTube, protests ensued and fatwas were issued, including one calling for the death of Ms. Garcia.

You might well ask what this all has to do with copyright law.  The answer lies in the DMCA. [Read more…]

Viacom v. YouTube: District Court Again Dismisses All Copyright Claims Against YouTube

Judge using his gavelOn remand from the Second Circuit, which had partially reversed the district court’s summary judgment dismissing Viacom’s copyright infringement claims against YouTube, the district court has again dismissed all claims on DMCA safe harbor grounds.

After Judge Stanton first dismissed Viacom’s case, holding on summary judgment that YouTube was shielded by the DMCA safe harbor, the Second Circuit reversed and remanded for further briefing due to questions regarding, inter alia, whether the record evidence established (1) YouTube’s actual or “red flag” knowledge of specific infringing activity, (2) willful blindness to such activity, and (3) whether YouTube had the right and ability to control the infringing activity.

On remand, and after further briefing, Judge Stanton again granted summary judgment on all counts to YouTube. [Read more…]

Second Circuit Reverses YouTube Decision: DMCA Safe Harbor Might Not Apply

Breaking News: The Second Circuit has just reversed the district court’s summary judgment ruling in the Viacom v. YouTube case, holding  a reasonable jury could find that YouTube did not qualify for the DMCA safe harbor.  More analysis to follow, but in the meantime here is the decision:

UMG v Veoh: Ninth Circuit Affirms DMCA Safe Harbor for Veoh

Copyright Into Infinity
Creative Commons License photo credit: Post-Software

The Ninth Circuit has affirmed the district court’s decision that Veoh’s user-generated video service was protected from UMG’s copyright infringement claims by the DMCA safe harbor provisions.  In a comprehensive and mostly well-reasoned 49-page opinion, the court methodically rejected each of UMG’s arguments as to why the safe harbor should not apply. [Read more…]

Website Developer’s Unauthorized Login to Website Not Actionable Under DMCA

What's your password
Creative Commons License photo credit: TheRealMichaelMoore
In a recent decision, Ground Zero Museum Workshop v. Wilson, a District of Maryland court held that a former website developer who allegedly gained unauthorized access to the plaintiff’s website after a dispute and altered the website did not violate the DMCA’s anti-circumvention provision.  In a familiar fact pattern of the jilted lover, er, I mean website developer, the developer used his password to access the back end of the plaintiff’s website after the two parties had a falling out and the developer resigned.  Then, depending upon whose version of reality you choose to believe, the developer either (1) pulled out the website functionality he had created and left the website in the same condition it was in before he started work or (2) altered the website so that users would think it was no longer functioning and inserted code that would redirect users to various news articles about the plaintiff and its owners. [Read more…]