In a divided decision today, the 9th U.S. Circuit of Appeals ordered Google to remove the anti-Muslim video “Innocence of Muslims” from You Tube.
The controversial film released in July 2012 prompted widespread outrage and death threats on the lives of director Mark Basseley and his actors, including Cindy Lee Garcia, who filed the federal lawsuit against Google after fearing for her life. Ms. Garcia insisted she had not signed a release regarding her short, five-second appearance in the film and therefore owned a copyright of her performance and sent a takedown notice to You Tube
In the 2-1 decision, the court disagreed with Google’s assertion that removing the video from You Tube would be a violation of the company’s First Amendment rights
The majority opinion written by Chief Judge Alex Kozinski, reversed an earlier district court denial of the copyright case of a preliminary injunction requiring You Tube to remove the anti-Islamic film that “used a performance that Ms. Garcia made for a different film and would have suffered irreparable harm if an injunction was not issued”. Judge Kozinski also stated, “while answering a casting call for a low-budget amateur film doesn't offer lead to stardom, it also rarely turns an aspiring actress into the subject of a fatwa. But that’s exactly what happened to Cindy Lee Garcia when she agreed to act in a film with the working title “Desert Warrior”.
Google was given 24 hours to remove “Innocence of Muslims” from You Tube but the video has already been removed. However a trailer of the film remains after a Los Angeles Superior Court judge denied Garcia’s motion last week. Remarkably, in its argument against the actress from Bakersfield, Google and You Tube both blamed her for the death threats, arguing she sparked publicity of the film.
Representatives from Google have said it will appeal the decision to a special 11-judge panel of the 9th Circuit of Appeals, the largest of the 13 courts of appeals and to the U.S. Supreme Court, if necessary.