US court orders YouTube to remove anti-Muslim film

US court orders YouTube to remove anti-Muslim film
Fri Feb 28, 2014 07:45:43

A US appeals court has ordered YouTube to take down an anti-Muslim film that sparked violent riots in parts of the Middle East and death threats to the actors.

The decision by a divided three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco reinstated a lawsuit filed against YouTube by an actress who appeared briefly in the 2012 video that led to rioting and deaths because of its negative portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH).

YouTube resisted calls by President Barack Obama and other world leaders to take down the video, arguing that to do so amounted to unwarranted government censorship and would violate the Google-owned company's free speech protections.

Besides, the company argued that the filmmakers and not the actors of "Innocence of Muslims" owned the copyright and only they could remove it from YouTube.

And typically, that's the case with the vast majority of clips posted on YouTube — and Hollywood in general — that don't violate decency laws and policies.

But the 9th Circuit said Wednesday that this case was far from typical and that the actress, Cindy Lee Garcia, retained a copyright claim that YouTube must respect.

That's because she believed she was acting in a different production than the one that ultimately appeared online.

"Had Ms. Garcia known the true nature of the propaganda film the producers were planning, she would never had agreed to appear in the movie," said Cris Armenta, Garcia's attorney.

Google argues that the actress had no claim to the film because filmmaker Mark Basseley Youssef wrote the dialogue, managed the entire production and dubbed over Garcia's dialogue during postproduction editing.

Writing for the court, Chief Judge Alex Kozinski said the ruling was not a blanket order giving copyright protection to every actor, but that in this case, Garcia's performance was worthy of copyright protection.

"We need not and do not decide whether every actor has a copyright in his performance within a movie," the judge wrote. "It suffices for now to hold that, while the matter is fairly debatable, Garcia is likely to prevail."

Youssef, the filmmaker, was sentenced to 21 months in prison for check fraud in 2010 and barred from accessing the Internet without court approval. He was returned to prison in 2012 for violating terms of his probation and was released on probation in September 2013.

Google Inc., which has removed the clip, said it will appeal the decision to a special 11-judge panel of the appeals court. The next move after that would be to ask the US Supreme Court to review the case.