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Garcia v. Google, Inc. - 786 F.3d 733 (9th Cir. 2015)


Preliminary injunctions are an extraordinary remedy never awarded as of right. An applicant must satisfy a four-factor test. A plaintiff seeking a preliminary injunction must show that: (1) she is likely to succeed on the merits, (2) she is likely to suffer irreparable harm in the absence of preliminary relief, (3) the balance of equities tips in her favor, and (4) an injunction is in the public interest. 


A movie producer transformed plaintiff Cindy Lee Garcia's five-second acting performance for a film titled "Desert Warrior" into part of a blasphemous video proclamation against the Prophet Mohammed. The video was entitled "Innocence of Muslims." The producer uploaded a trailer of the video to YouTube. Millions of viewers soon watched it online, according to Garcia. News outlets credited the film as a source of violence in the Middle East. Garcia received death threats, and as a result, Garcia filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in federal district court against defendant Google, Inc., seeking to compel Google to remove the video from all of its platforms, including YouTube. The district court denied the motion for preliminary injunction against Google, and Garcia appealed asserting that the trial court abused its discretion.


Did the trial court err in denying Garcia's motion for preliminary injunction?




The en banc court of appeals affirmed the district court's decision. The court held that the district court did not abuse its discretion in denying Garcia's motion for a mandatory preliminary injunction because the law and facts did not clearly favor her claim to a copyright in her acting performance as it appeared in Innocence of Muslims. The en banc court credited the expert opinion of the Copyright Office, which had refused to register Garcia's performance apart from the film. The court also held that in the context of copyright infringement, the only basis upon which the preliminary injunction was sought, Garcia failed to make a clear showing of irreparable harm to her interests as an author. It further held that the injunction was unwarranted and incorrect as a matter of law and was a prior restraint that infringed the First Amendment values at stake.

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