US court orders removal of anti-Islam film from YouTube
- 27 February 2014
- From the section US & Canada
A US federal court has ordered Google to remove from YouTube a crude anti-Islam film which sparked deadly riots across the Muslim world.
In a 2-1 decision, the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favour of an actress who said she was tricked into appearing in the film.
The film denounces the Prophet Muhammad as a fraud and worse.
The ruling turned on a copyright issue, not the film's content, which YouTube said did not violate its standards.
The clip from the film entitled Innocence of Muslims sparked violence in several places around the world in 2012. Dozens of people died in the Middle East during the protests.
The film has also been linked to the attack on a US diplomatic post in Benghazi, Libya, in which killed four Americans including the US ambassador were killed.
YouTube, which is owned by Google, had rebuffed requests to remove the film from the website, arguing only the filmmaker and not the actress, Cindy Lee Garcia, owned the copyright and thus had the authority to take the video down.
Garcia sued Google to demand the company remove the video, arguing the man behind it, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, gave her a script that referred neither to Muslims nor to the Prophet.
She said her voice was dubbed over in post-production to make it appear as though she was speaking the inflammatory words.
Depicting the Prophet Muhammad in any way defies Islamic belief and offends Muslims, let alone satirising and mocking him, as the film does.
In its ruling on Wednesday, the court in San Francisco said Garcia owned the copyright to her performance because she had agreed to appear in a film far different than the one ultimately produced.
"While answering a casting call for a low-budget amateur film doesn't often lead to stardom, it also rarely turns an aspiring actress into the subject of a fatwa," Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote in the opinion.
"Garcia's performance was used in a way that she found abhorrent and her appearance in the film subjected her to threats of physical harm and even death. Despite these harms, and despite Garcia's viable copyright claim, Google refused to remove the film from YouTube."
Nakoula was sentenced to a year in prison in late 2012 for violating probation in a separate case, which imposed a total ban on using computers or the internet for five years.