Tag Archive: Google


Google Ordered to Remove “Innocence of Muslims” Trailer from YouTube by Federal Court

The Ninth Circuit, in Garcia v. Google, Inc., 12-57302 (9th Cir. Feb. 26, 2014), ordered that Google remove a fourteen minute trailer for “Innocence of Muslims” from YouTube on February 26, 2014, citing copyright violations.  The court, by a 2-1 vote, reasoned, in an opinion written by Chief Judge Kozinski, that Cindy Lee Garcia had an independent copyright interest in her performance, and thus concluded that she demonstrated a likelihood of success on the merits, reversing the district court’s denial of Garcia’s motion.  Google, in another court filing on February 28, 2014, which requested the Ninth Circuit to review the issue, called the February 26 decision “unprecedented” and “sweeping.”  The Ninth Circuit denied the request and ordered Google to remove the video immediately.    However, on March 6, 2014, the Ninth Circuit, pursuant to sua sponte request, issued an Order requesting briefs from the parties on whether the matter should be reheard en banc.  The briefs are due by March 12, 2014.

Google released the following statement following the Ninth Circuit’s February 28 ruling:

Today the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that an actress in the Innocence of Muslims trailer may have a copyright claim over her five-second appearance in the video. As a result the court ordered Google to remove the video from our services. We strongly disagree with this ruling and will fight it.

The trailer for “Innocence of Muslims” was posted online in September 2012. Garcia appeared for approximately five seconds of the thirteen minute video. The video caused violent protests in Egypt, Libya, and other countries around the world.  The release also coincided with an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Benghazi, Libya, in which four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Christopher Stevens, were killed.  The video, which has been called “anti-Islamic” and “inflammatory”, depicts the Muslim prophet Mohammed as a fool and a sexual deviant.

A number of commentators have criticized the Ninth Circuit’s decision.  James Grimmelmann, a law professor at the University of Maryland, Baltimore, posted his reaction to Twitter (@grimmelm), stating:

A performance is not a work. It can provide expression in a work, but IT IS NOT A WORK.

The only thing worse than the Innocence of Muslims copyright decision is Innocence of Muslims itself. It’s just astonishingly bad.

Grimmelmann said that the Ninth Circuit’s recognition of Garcia’s copyright calls into question bedrock copyright law. Grimmelmann believes that since Garcia is not the author of the work, there no copyright interest in her five-second appearance.  Google said it will ask the U.S. Supreme Court to review the Ninth Circuit’s decision.

The European Union (EU) has expressed concerns over Google’s privacy policies. Google is a global technology company focused on online products and services, notably internet search and email services, advertising, and software technologies. On October 16, 2012, the data collection authorities for all 27 EU Member States signed a letter that was sent to Google addressing the EU’s privacy concerns. In short, the EU’s concern is that Google may be collecting too much information on users and keeping the information stored on its system for too long. The EU letter claims that Google has not “endorse[d] the key data protection principles of purpose limitation, data quality, data minimisation, proportionality and right to object.” The increased worry over Google’s policies was sparked by Google’s new privacy policy which allows the company to combine data collected from its internet-related services such as YouTube and Gmail. This data collection enables Google to improve its advertising efforts by targeting users based on specific interests and browsing history.

In order to better understand the quarrel between Google and the EU, it is important to discuss briefly EU law regarding data collection. Article 7 of the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights guarantees the right to respect for one’s private and family life, home, and communications. More specifically, Article 8 provides explicit protection of the right to the protection of personal data. Article 8 specifically includes the “right of access to data which has been collected concerning him or her, and the right to have it rectified.” The right to data protection is also enshrined in Article 16(1) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). In 1995, the EU adopted the Data Protection Directive (95/46/EC).  The Data Protection Directive’s Article 29 created the “Working party on the Protection of Individuals with regard to the Processing of Personal Data.” The Article 29 Working Party has broad powers over data protection in the EU. Data protections were reinforced by the E-Privacy Directive (2002/58/EC). In January 2012, the Commission proposed a comprehensive reform of the EU legal framework on the protection of personal data. The 2012 proposals seek to enhance users’ control of their data and account for changes in technology.  In February 2012, Viviane Reding, the EU justice commissioner, stressed that European authorities need to ensure that Google’s new privacy policy complies with EU law.

The EU’s latest row with Google raises an interesting test regarding the future of European data protection. Specifically, the EU regulators want Google to (1) clarify its privacy policies; (2) get express permission from individual users to use and collect their data; (3) make it easier for users to opt out of certain requirements; and (4) publish how it uses and processes personal data. Google has four months to comply. If Google does not sufficiently comply with the EU’s requests, the EU regulators will consider disciplinary measures such as fines. Google has not responded at this time. However, Peter Fleischer, Google’s global privacy counsel, said, “Our new privacy policy demonstrates our long-standing commitment to protecting our users’ information and creating great products. We are confident that our privacy notices respect European law.”

Google has certainly faced its fair share of privacy complaints in EU countries in the past. In 2010, EU regulators demanded that Google warn people before taking pictures for Google’s Street View service. Furthermore, the EU demanded that Google shorten the amount of time the pictures were kept on the company’s system. In 2011, Spanish data protection authorities demanded that Google remove links to online news articles which infringed on the privacy of Spanish citizens.

At the end of the day, the latest dispute between Google and the EU underscores the difficulty in harmonizing EU data protection laws and maintaining the health of the global internet-based economy. On one hand, Google wants highly targeted advertising because advertising is the chief revenue source for the company. On the other hand, European countries want to ensure that EU users’ data is protected and that Google complies with EU law. The outcome of this row will likely have long-term implications for many other companies such as Facebook which rely on Europe’s significant market of 500 million citizens.

The American Public Response to SOPA and PIPA

On January 18th approximately 75,000 United State websites took part in a “blackout” to protest legislation before the United States Congress.  The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and Protect IP Act (PIPA) are bills  introduced to the House of Representatives and the Senate in order to prevent the piracy of millions of dollars worth of intellectual property being trafficked freely over the internet. The bills would broaden United States law enforcement’s power to investigate and enforce sanctions against pirating sites. While the goals of the bills are admirable, the way in which the legislation is written may have unintended consequences. Freedom of speech is one of the principal foundations that our government was founded upon; it was certainly seen as important enough to be written down in the first Amendment of our Constitution.  These bills would essentially allow the government to block everyone’s access to entire internet domains due to a sole post in one of their users’ blogs. The result would be in major sites being possibly fined and criminally prosecuted with a result of a possible five years imprisonment, if such a single post were to unknowingly stream unauthorized copyrighted material. Internet Service Providers would be require to block all access to an infringing site within five days, and search engines would be requires to remove all links to the infringing site. The simple (possible) idea that a whole corporation could be punished due to one user’s unknown response is unfortunate. Google, a leader in the protest against the legislation, didn’t black out its website. However, it did initiate a petition that collected over 4.5 million signatures of Americans against the legislation.

Since the blackout and the American public’s response, support of the bills from many Congressmen have dropped. Florida Senator Marco Rubio, a co-sponsor for PIPA, stated that as he has learned of the legitimate concerns of the “many unintended consequences” that the bill could bring he has withdrawn his support.  Furthermore he asked that Senator Reid (the initial proponent of the bill) to “abandon his plan to rush the bill to the floor.”  Congress should seriously consider alternatives that many of the protestors of PIPA and SOPA (such as Google) support. One of those is the Online Protection and Enforcement of Digital Trade Act (OPEN Act).




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