Netflix is moving quickly to get a surprising ruling from the 9th Circuit Court that would allow actors to apply a copyright claim to their performance in movies. This ruling could allow actors to force popular movies off of services like Netflix. Forcing Netflix to create a streaming deal with each actor in the film or face a unhappy actor suing for copyright infringement.
In the lawsuit actor Cindy Lee Garcia sued saying she did not sign away her rights for the movie Innocence of Muslims to be streamed on Youtube. In a recent ruling from the 9th Circuit Court said she owned a copyright on her performance in the movie.
The 9th Circuit Court ruling reverses a 2012 District Court ruling that rejected the idea that she had a copyright on her performance.
“Just because Garcia isn’t a joint author of Innocence of Muslims doesn’t mean she doesn’t have a copyright interest in her own performance within the film,” writes 9th Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski. “Whether an individual who makes an independently copyrightable contribution to a joint work can retain a copyright interest in that contribution is a rarely litigated question. But nothing in the Copyright Act suggests that a copyright interest in a creative contribution to a work simply disappears because the contributor doesn’t qualify as a joint author of the entire work.”
In response to the ruling Garcia said “I am a strong believer and supporter of the First Amendment and have the right not to be associated with this hateful speech against my will.” Google quickly respond from a official spokesperson “We strongly disagree with this ruling and will fight it”.
If this ruling stands it would be a dangerous change from past laws that said the creator who paid the actors to make the movie owned its publications rights. Allowing actors to make copyright claims in a effort to take them down or to get a bigger cut of the profits could allow every walk on to file a copyright claim.
A California federal judge is expected to pick up this case again and we could see it go all the way to the Supreme Court.