Is Laci Green wrong about copyright? This court case says yes.

Laci Green, a SexEd and social justice YouTuber with over 1.5 million subscribers, has recently found herself in some hot water after putting a copyright claim on a video made by YouTuber ‘Roaming Millenial’ on the basis that Roaming Millenial used Green’s image in a video to make money, which to Green is a clear copyright violation because she has “learned 2 law”.

Iconic.

Now I am someone who has “learned 2 law” in school with various classes and have even exclusively studied copyright on YouTube for papers. The first thing you need to know is that the internet and copyright are not friends. Viacom International, Inc. v. YouTube, Inc. is proof of this as the initial lawsuit was filed in 2007 with the final settlement given in 2014 after a lengthy court battle. [x]

For Laci Green’s situation, let’s look at a court case in which a woman sued YouTube for the removal of a video because her appearance in the video did not reflect the beliefs of the actual video: Garcia v. Google, Inc. [x]

garcia

The woman, Cindy Lee Garcia, is an actress who auditioned and appeared in the short film on the basis that it was a“an HD 24P historical Arabian Desert adventure film”, but the footage, including her performance, was instead used to create the Islamphobic short film Innocence of Muslims. Garcia sued YouTube in order to remove the video from the site, claiming that the video infringed on her personal copyright as an actress.

This is sounding a little familiar.

However, while the initial decision ruled in Garcia’s favor and removed the video from YouTube, that decision was overturned in May 2015 citing that “Therefore, we agree with Google that Garcia granted Youssef an implied license” and “To be protected, Garcia’s acting performance must be a“work.” Congress has listed examples of copyrightable works, like architectural works, motion pictures, literary works, and pictorial or sculptural works. The nature of these works is significantly different from an actress’s individual performance in a film, casting doubt on the conclusion that the latter can constitute a work.” They also decreed that only the spoken words would be copyrightable, but given how the director dubbed over the actress’s words it does not apply to Garcia. [x]

TL;DR – Actors/Actresses are not copyrighted material themselves. Only the spoken word in the material.

Now Innocence of Muslims earned Cindy Lee Garcia a ‘fatwa‘ calling for her death.[xx] Roaming Millenial’s video, which only criticizes Green’s opinion of cultural appropriation, does not have the same affect and even it did, the courts have already decided that an actress/performer’s image cannot be copyrighted. Even if it could be copyrightable, Green’s image is still only used for commentary and criticism which is within the rights of fair use.

Maybe Green should learn 2 law.

For more about online copyright, check out my blog post and video about the subject. 

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