They haven’t gotten a chance to have the case reheard yet but Google has dodged a financial bullet in the seemingly never ending matter of the anti-Islam film Innocence Of Muslims. Late last night, the 9th Circuit succinctly rejected an emergency motion from actress Cindy Lee Garcia last week seeking more than $127 million in penalties against the tech giant for not complying with a surprising February 26 court order to take down the controversial video. “Appellant’s emergency contempt motion is denied,” ordered a 3-Judge panel on March 31 (read it here) in response to Garcia’s March 25 filing. Google, according to Garcia, is taking its time taking down the inflammatory 2012 14-minute video and even going so far as asking the actress to provide them with “each and every individual URL” that’s still on the tech company’s platform. One of the places the video was still available, according to Garcia, was Egypt – the nation where the actress received an execution threat for her brief appearance in Innocence. Google has long argued that Garcia had no copyright claim on the video, which she appears for 5 seconds, and to take it down is an affront to free speech.
Regardless of that, the March 25 motion identified 852 violations of the takedown order and recommended Google is slapped with a contempt penalty of $150,000 per violation. She also asked that Google be compelled to post a bond matching the statutory max for copyright infringement of all the violation – which adds up to a not inconsiderable $127,800,000. “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,” said Garcia and her lawyer Cris Armenta.
Posted online in September 2012, the Innocence Of Muslims trailer caused violent protests around the Muslim world as well as calls for the filmmaker Mark Basseley Youssef’s death. Not long after the video attracted worldwide attention, Youssef was jailed for a year on parole violations related to a 2010 bank fraud case. Youssef has since been released. California-based Garcia says she never signed a release form for her participation in the film, originally entitled Desert Warriors. Garcia also has said she thought that the film she was appearing in was very different from the one that eventually showed up online. Garcia and her lawyer have used that lack of a release to assert her own copyright over Innocence in their efforts to get YouTube it take it down. An assertion that the 9th Circuit agreed with in late February in a 2-1 order.
Google and YouTube are represented by Timothy Alger and Sunita Bali of Palo Alto firm Perkins Cioe LLP and lawyer from Washington D.C. firm Hogan Lovells US LLP