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Nate Jackson / May 19, 2015

The Innocence of Filmmakers: Ninth Circuit Favors Free Speech

The full Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has reversed an earlier decision regarding copyright law and freedom of speech. The subject of the case is “Innocence of Muslims,” the amateurish YouTube video the Obama administration deceitfully blamed for the Benghazi attacks. (The Associated Press is still blaming the movie.) The case was brought by Cindy Lee Garcia, an actress in the film who sued, alleging the filmmaker tricked her into participating in a movie she didn’t understand and then dubbed over her lines. She sought independent copyright over her appearance in the film. A three judge panel initially agreed, but the full court did not, saying her argument “would enable any contributor from a costume designer to an extra to claim copyright in random bits and pieces.” That isn’t to say the judges weren’t sympathetic: “By all accounts, Cindy Lee Garcia was bamboozled,” Judge Mary Margaret McKeown wrote for the court. “We are sympathetic to her plight.” However, McKeown added, “In this case, a heartfelt plea for personal protection is juxtaposed with the limits of copyright law and fundamental principles of free speech. The appeal teaches a simple lesson — a weak copyright claim cannot justify censorship in the guise of authorship.” It’s another victory for the First Amendment.

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