Google asks court to put anti-Islam film back on YouTube

Google asks court to put anti-Islam film back on YouTube
Appeals court is reconsidering a decision which ordered YouTube to take down an anti-Islam film clip that sparked violence in the Middle East and led to death threats. The case sparked debates about freedom of speech and censorship.

A lawyer for Google told an 11-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals in California on Monday that free speech is in jeopardy if the ruling stands to keep an anti-Islamic film off its YouTube service. A divided three-judge panel ordered YouTube to pull the video in February, after deciding that actress Cindy Lee Garcia had a copyright claim to the low-budget video, titled ‘Innocence of Muslims.

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Garcia had objected to the use of her performance, which had been partially dubbed for its inclusion in the trailer. Garcia had believed during production that she was appearing in a film called ‘Desert Warrior,’ which was described as a "historical Arabian Desert adventure film." She claims she was unaware that anti-Islamic material would be added in the post-production stage.

The ruling will fragment copyright law and restrict free speech if it stands,” Google attorney Neal Katyal said to the judges.

Google is supported in its appeal by an unusual alliance that includes filmmakers, internet rivals such as Yahoo, and prominent news media companies such as The New York Times, who don't want the court to infringe on First Amendment rights or change copyright law.

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The movie trailer of ‘Innocence of Muslims’ was originally uploaded to YouTube in July 2012, under the title ‘The Real Life of Muhammad’ and ‘Muhammad.’ Garcia’s voice was dubbed so that her character asked if Muhammad was a child molester.

Screenshot from youtube

The trailer was perceived as denigrating the Muslim prophet Muhammad and caused demonstrations and violent protests in Egypt and other countries, leading to hundreds of injuries and over 50 deaths. Fatwas were issued against the video’s participants, and a Pakistani minister offered a bounty for the killing of the producer. The film also sparked debates about freedom of speech and internet censorship.

If the court upholds the smaller panel's ruling, YouTube and other internet companies could face takedown notices from others in minor video roles.

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Until the court order, YouTube had rejected calls by President Barack Obama and other world leaders to pull the video, arguing that it would amount to government censorship and violate free speech protections.

Garcia has support from the Screen Actors Guild and the American Federation of Musicians.