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…]

Second Circuit Vacates Google Books Class Certification

Judge using his gavelThe Second Circuit has vacated the district court’s class certification ruling in the Google Books case (Authors Guild v. Google), holding that Judge Chin must rule on Google’s fair use defense before considering class certification.  The panel, comprising Judges Leval, Cabranes and Parker, noted that Google’s objections to class certification “may carry some force,” but ruled that the fair use defense should be resolved first, and that such resolution “will necessarily inform and perhaps moot [the Second Circuit’s] analysis of many class certification issues.” [Read more…]

Google Court Rules APIs Not Protected By Copyright

I apologize for slacking off on the blog posts, but I have been preparing for a Copyright Royalty Board trial.  Even under these trying circumstances, however, I had to quickly post this decision due to its immense importance to copyright lawyers.  In the ongoing battle between Google and Oracle, the district court has finally issued its decision on the crucial issue of whether APIs (application programming interfaces) are protected by copyright, holding that APIs are methods of software operation and therefore not within the scope of copyright.

Here is the decision:

Perfect 10 v. Google: Ninth Circuit Holds No More Presumption Of Irreparable Harm In Copyright Infringement Cases

Google Bike
Creative Commons License photo credit: Max Braun

I guess the subtitle for this post could be “Ninth Circuit Holds: Suing Google Is Not A Business Model.”  In the seemingly endless litigation between purveyors of on-line nudie pictures, Perfect 10 [Warning: Link Not Workplace Friendly or Politically Correct or Tasteful], and Google, the Ninth Circuit has joined the rest of the copyright world in acknowledging that the presumption of irreparable harm, employed for many years by the federal courts, did not survive the Supreme Court’s eBay Inc. v. MercExchange, LLC decision.  In doing so, the Ninth discussed and approved of the Second Circuit’s decision in Salinger v. Colting, which came to the same conclusion. [Read more…]