An interesting censorship case is taking place across the pond where Google has been asked to remove from its YouTube video-sharing website an anti-Islamic film that had sparked protests across the Muslim world.
According to CNN, by a 2-1 vote, a panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals rejected Google’s claim that the removal of the film “Innocence of Muslims” amounted to a prior restraint of speech that violated the US constitution.
This would mean that YouTube would have to take down the video, although Google is likely to appeal to the Supremes.
The plaintiff, Cindy Lee Garcia, wanted the film taken down after learning that it incorporated a clip she had made for a different movie. In this film, she had been partially dubbed to say, “Is your Mohammed a child molester?”
Cris Armenta, a lawyer for Garcia, said the propaganda film differs so radically from anything that Garcia could have imagined when the director told her that she was being cast in the innocent adventure film.
The controversial film depicted the prophet Mohammed as a fool and a sexual deviant and created shedloads of anti-American unrest among Muslims in Egypt, Libya and other countries in 2012.
For many Muslims, any depiction of the prophet is considered a bit blasphemous, but in this particular case it was just plain insulting. There was talk that the film was an Israeli plot to destabilise the Middle East, because life there was just getting a little too comfortable.
Google had refused to remove the film from YouTube, despite pressure from the White House and others, though it blocked the trailer in Egypt, Libya and certain other countries.
Google argued that Garcia appeared in the film for five seconds, and that while she might have legal claims against the director, she should not win a copyright lawsuit against Google.
“Our laws permit even the vilest criticisms of governments, political leaders, and religious figures as legitimate exercises in free speech,” the company wrote.
Garcia argued that her performance within the film was independently copyrightable and that she retained an interest in that copyright.
9th Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski confirmed that Garcia was likely to prevail on her copyright claim, and having already faced “serious threats against her life,” faced irreparable harm absent an injunction. He called it a rare and troubling case.