Garcia v. Google, Inc.

Docket Number: 12-57302
Judge: Kozinski
Opinion Date: February 26, 2014

Plaintiff was cast in a minor role in an adventure film with the working title “Desert Warrior.” The film never materialized and plaintiff’s scene was used, instead, in an anti-Islamic film titled “Innocence of Muslims.” The film was uploaded to YouTube.com and her brief performance was dubbed over so that she appeared to being asking, “Is your Mohammed a child molester?” An Egyptian cleric subsequently issued a fatwa, calling for the killing of everyone involved with the film. After Google refused to take it down from YouTube, plaintiff sought a restraining order seeking removal of the film, claiming that the posting of the video infringed the copyright in her performance. The district court treated the application as a motion for a preliminary injunction but denied the motion. The court concluded that plaintiff demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits where plaintiff had an independent copyright interest in her performance; the work for hire doctrine was inapplicable in this instance because plaintiff was not a traditional employee and the filmmaker was not in the regular business of making films; and although plaintiff granted the filmmaker an implied license to use plaintiff’s performance, the filmmaker exceeded the bounds of the license when he lied to plaintiff in order to secure her participation and she agreed to perform in reliance on that lie. The court also concluded that plaintiff faced irreparable harm absent an injunction where plaintiff took legal action as soon as the film received worldwide attention and she began receiving death threats; the harm plaintiff complained of was real and immediate; and plaintiff demonstrated a causal connection because removing the film from YouTube would help disassociate her from the film’s anti-Islamic message and such disassociation would keep her from suffering future threats and physical harm. Finally, the balance of the equities and the public interest favored plaintiff’s position. Accordingly, the court concluded that the district court abused its discretion in denying the motion for a preliminary injunction. The court reversed and remanded. View “Garcia v. Google, Inc.” on Justia Law