Innocence Of Muslims Actress Files Contempt Charges Against Google For Not Making Movie Completely Disappear Worldwide
from the well,-if-you've-already-fucked-up-copyright-law-in-one-way... dept
It would appear that actress Cindy Lee Garcia and her lawyer Chris Armenta are figuring that since they’ve already mucked up copyright law with their ridiculous victory in the 9th Circuit that they might as well go on pushing the boundaries of copyright law to further ridiculous extremes. If you don’t recall, the 9th Circuit, via Judge Alex Kozinski found the actress had a magical “copyright interest” in the 5 seconds of Innocence of Muslims 13-minute trailer that she appeared in, allowing her to demand that Google takedown every copy of the video. Multiple copyright experts were flabbergasted at this ruling, and a variety of folks have been lining up to support future proceedings in the case (starting with a possible en banc review of whether or not the court should grant a stay on the ruling until even more review can occur).
In the midst of this, Garcia has filed a motion for contempt against YouTube and Google arguing that the company has failed to abide by the takedown order. However, as the details show, Garcia and Armenta are applying some rather questionable interpretations of copyright law yet again — though they’re interpretations helped along by a bunch of additional problems with Kozinski’s order (problems that were mostly ignored given the immensity of the ridiculousness of the key parts of the original order). It seems that their main complaint is that Google only blocked the videos for people in the US. That is, if you visit a foreign version of YouTube, you can still see the clips. That may be true, but it’s hard to see how that’s contempt. US copyright law only applies in the US. The US court can’t realistically order Google to remove the video in other countries, since US courts don’t have jurisdiction there. Imagine the flip side: if a court in, say, China, ruled that Google had to block a certain video — and then found Google in contempt for not blocking viewers in the US from accessing that content. Most people would flip out.
But Garcia and her lawyer seem to think that a single copyright ruling in the US is grounds for worldwide censorship. That’s fairly incredible. Though, once again, Judge Kozinski is largely to blame here, as his order certainly could be read to suggest (clearly incorrectly) that he has the power to censor the content globally.
Google has failed to comply. As of this morning, at 7:55 a.m EST, a version of Innocence of Muslims that includes Ms. Garcia’s performance is still available on Google’s Worldwide Platform and also viewable in Egypt, the nation in which the fatwa was issued for Ms. Garcia’s execution. All a viewer needs to do to view a copy of the video that contains the infringing material from any computer in the world and within in YouTube’s global platforms–and therefore is governed by the takedown order–is to change his or her settings to any country platform, such as “Egypt.”
That’s not the only problem with the motion. It also seems to completely ignore existing rulings (such as in the Viacom case) that state that in issuing takedowns, you need to point to the specific instance of infringement, rather than just “make all of this disappear.” That’s quite reasonable, because content itself is not infringing absent context. There may be perfectly valid versions of the content that are fair use — especially given the news interest in this particular ruling. But Garcia is insisting that Google has to proactively police all copies and block them — again, thanks in part to Kozinski’s overly broad language in his order that implies a duty to police this issue, despite the law not saying that at all.
Furthermore, the DMCA’s 512(j) itself says that injunctions granted under it can only apply to “a particular online site,” rather than some sort of global ban across every site in every locale. Kozinski, once again, seems to have gone beyond what the law allows in his weird quixotic quest to twist copyright law into something it is not.
For Google, it is a pedestrian, technical exercise to take down those URLs, to hire an intern to just search for “Innocence of Muslims,” and their suggestion that Ms. Garcia should comb through YouTube again, and provide Google with the information again, belies Google’s claim that it is in compliance.
While Kozinski seems to ignore this, the DMCA has never had a forward-looking duty to monitor and block all instances of a particular piece of content. It appears that Garcia and her lawyer are trying to simply make up new law here. As we noted just recently, there are some efforts underway to change the DMCA from a “notice and takedown” provision to “notice and staydown” but that’s simply not the law today, no matter what Kozinski thinks it is.
The motion goes even further, insisting that the only way to comply with a takedown notice is to completely remove the file from the server, rather than just disable it from being viewable:
Additionally, as of the writing of this brief, Google has not “taken down” anything. Instead, it has merely disabled the various uploads displaying Innocence of Muslims in forms that contain infringing content, leaving the content up and viewable via thumbnails.
Of course, the actual law says that upon notification a company only needs to “remove, or disable access to, the material.” Once again, it seems that this is another problem with Kozinski’s overly broad order, which declared that Google had to “takedown” the content, rather than just disable it, even as the law has said disabling it should be sufficient.
Furthermore, the motion seems to suggest that Google has a further duty (not even discussed in Kozinski’s order) to somehow block Google’s search engine from ever pointing to the video anywhere else in the world.
Google has failed to remove full copies of the video from its platforms, has failed to prevent new uploads of the video to YouTube, and continues to publish on its Google search index platforms links to numerous sites and platforms where the video can either be directly viewed or where it can be easily downloaded and saved to viewers’ computers.
So now they want to censor Google search results to other sites as well? Yikes.
Garcia also complains about the “snide” error message placed on copies of the video that were disabled.
Indeed, Google has not even made a pro forma attempt to comply with the order, choosing instead to temporarily disable only a few copies of the video that contain infringing content and putting in their place a snide message to the public that states:
“This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by an actress over her 5-second appearance in the video. A U.S. court has ordered Google to remove the video. We strongly disagree with this copyright ruling and will fight it.”
As is clear from Google’s near-total disregard of the order and its ridiculing of the Court’s authority, Google is thumbing its nose at the Court and making a mockery of our judicial system in an apparent attempt to encourage the public to blame and harass Ms. Garcia and to continue to use infringing content to generate YouTube revenues from traffic directed through the 852 URLs that have illegally posted the content.
Of course, all of Google’s responses so far do not seem like “contempt” or “thumbing its nose,” but rather following through with the exactly what the law says is proper. Disabling access to the known videos in the US. This is the same way that Google responds to legal takedowns in other countries as well — disabling it for those countries only. And, yes, Kozinski’s order could be read to demand further actions, including fulling taking down all such videos, even those outside the US, but those are just additional problems with Kozinski’s order, which go way beyond what the law says. Everyone has reasonably focused on the ridiculousness of the original claim of giving Garcia a copyright interest in the film, and to a lesser extent the First Amendment-defying gag order he placed on Google. But, the details of this contempt motion highlight that Kozinski got a lot of the little things completely wrong as well, such as ordering Google to go way beyond what copyright law requires.
This is a bad case on so many levels, but it could be even more ridiculous if these kinds of precedents by Kozinski’s blatant misreading of the law are allowed to stand. The dangerous precedents go beyond just allowing an actor in a film to claim a copyright on the film, but further allowing bogus “worldwide” injunctions and a requirement to completely “take down” content, rather than just disable access to it (which creates a whole host of other problems). Once again, it seems abundantly clear that Kozinski simply went off the reservation with his ruling, ignoring what the law actually says to satisfy his own desire to censor this video.