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Actor files copyright claim against Google over torrent site links to “Innocence of Muslims” video

In a decision that rattled Hollywood and alarmed free speech advocates, a California court ruled earlier this year that an actress could use copyright law to force Google to remove a notorious anti-Muslim video from YouTube. Now, an actor who claims that, like the actress, he was tricked into appearing in the short movie, says Google is infringing his copyright by showing links to torrent sites.

In a complaint filed last week in Los Angeles federal court, the actor Gaylord Flynn asked for an injunction and damages against Google and against the maker of the film. Flynn stated that he thought he was acting in a non-religious film called Desert Warrior, but then was horrified to discover the film maker had posted a dubbed Arabic version of the film on YouTube in which the voice-overs insult the prophet Mohammed.

The posting of the film, known as “Innocence of Muslims,” led to riots in the Arab world and to an Egyptian cleric ordering a fatwa demanding that the actors and everyone else in the film be put to death. In the complaint, Flynn claims he has received death threats and is “in fear for his life.”

In response to the earlier lawsuit by the actress, the California court ordered Google to remove the film from YouTube and also to ensure that it did not appear on the site again. Many copyright lawyers criticized the decision, which is under appeal, as harsh and unusual, especially as it imposed a rare prior restraint on Google on the basis of flimsy legal grounds.

Now, Flynn appears to be trying to stretch the decision further by asking the court to take action against Google because the company’s search results include links to torrent sites like the Pirate Bay and where links to “Innocence of Muslims” can be found. In an unusual legal theory, Flynn explained:

Defendant Google is liable because it directs and participates in, and benefits from, the torrent sites’ infringing conduct as alleged herein, and its corporate policies have been the guiding spirit behind and central figure in those infringing activities.

Google, which has vigorously protested the earlier ruling, did not immediately respond to a request for comment about the new lawsuit.

The copyright part of the earlier decision — on which Flynn relies — alarmed Hollywood because it states that each actor in a film has a discrete right in their performances, and can control how the film is displayed. Ordinarily, performances are considered a work-for-hire or are assigned to studios by license.

The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals sided with the actress this summer when Google appealed the first case, but Google is now waiting to hear if it may bring its appeal of the case, known as Garcia, before a full panel of judges. Here’s a copy of the new complaint, which was spotted by IP lawyer Mark Jaffe. I’ve underlined some of the key parts:

This story was updated at 4:55PM ET to clarify that Google’s en banc appeal is still pending.

Innocence of Muslims .. New Complaint

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One Response to “Actor files copyright claim against Google over torrent site links to “Innocence of Muslims” video”

  1. Jesus, isn’t it totally apparent by now that Google profits from its use of others’ IP and content while paying little or no compensation? Whether using others’ music to sell advertising or taking advertising money from torrent sites that steal content, infringement is part and parcel of their business model. The amazing thing is that Google has a legion of saps- who all also rely on making a living in the knowledge economy, by the way- singing their song that they are free speech advocates. The free speech argument is a red herring. This is not a battle between owners of content and users of that content. This is a fight between two groups of Intellectual Property owners, those who own copyrights and those who own algorithms. Goggle is eager to claim its right to use my intellectual property copyrights without paying for it, but how far would I get stealing their algorithms and using them for my own profit? Its just a matter of time before they use everyone’s intellectual output for their own profit. We can fight together or we can hang separately…