Copyright claim by actress in anti-Islam film unlikely to succeed, says Greg Korn

KWIKA partner Greg Korn was quoted in Ryan Davis’s article at Law360.com (“Actress in Anti-Muslim Film May Have Flimsy Copyright Case”) on the copyright lawsuit brought by Cindy Lee Garcia, an actress in the film “Innocence of Muslims,” which has gained so much negative attention lately.

Typically, professional productions require the actors to sign a work-for-hire agreement, which assigns the copyright in their work to the producer.  Ms. Garcia says she never signed such a document.  But even when no agreement is signed, Greg says courts have held that the copyright in a film belongs to the person who superintended it or controlled it, so Ms. Garcia is unlikely to persuade a judge that her rights in her performance should allow her to block the film’s distribution.

According to her Complaint, the actress has even applied to the U.S. Copyright Office for a copyright on her performance, but Greg doesn’t think that approach will fly either.  “From everything I’ve read, I don’t believe this actress was in a position of controlling the production, meaning that the likelihood that she has a copyright interest is very, very low.  Because work-for-hire language is so common, there are hardly any cases addressing whether actors have a copyright interest in their performance, but it seems clear that they don’t under copyright law.”

“It’s nonsensical to talk about her performance as separate and apart from the film.  The typical judge is just going to apply copyright law and not be swayed by everything else that’s going on.”

Greg added that he wouldn’t be surprised to see a judge rule against Ms. Garcia “sooner rather than later.”