Google must scrub YouTube of all copies of Innocence of Muslims after a federal appeals court sided with an actor who says she was tricked into participating in the infamous anti-Islam film. The film sparked international protests in 2012 over its depiction of Mohammed and Islam, after a lengthy trailer for the picture went viral in the Middle East.
The actor in question is Cindy Lee Garcia, who (along with basically the entire cast and crew of the film) thought she was working on a production called Desert Warrior. Garcia had just a bit part in the film, for which she was paid $500. But filmmaker Nakoula Basseley Nakoula gave her a starring role in the trailer by taking her footage and (badly) dubbing in one of its most controversial lines: "Is your Mohammed a child molester?" Once the trailer made it to YouTube, Garcia received death threats and at least one fatwa from an Egyptian cleric. That's when she started sending takedown notices. Eventually, she sued Google, claiming copyright infringement.
The 9th Circuit Court of Appeals' preliminary decision goes against a district court decision finding in Google's favor. A majority on the appeals panel found that Garcia is likely right to claim that as a non-employee of the film's producer, she has an independent copyright claim on her performance. Because her performance was taken so widely out of context, Garcia argued that Innocence of Muslims infringed on her copyright and had the potential to cause irreparable harm if it continued to circulate online. Google countered that a court order to remove the film would unconstitutionally restrain free speech. Here's what the appeals panel wrote in support of Garcia's side of the story in their conclusion:
This is a troubling case. Garcia was duped into providing an artistic performance that was used in a way she never could have foreseen. Her unwitting and unwilling inclusion in Innocence of Muslims led to serious threats against her life. It’s disappointing, though perhaps not surprising, that Garcia needed to sue in order to protect herself and her rights.
Google has 24 hours to remove all copies of the film from YouTube. After that, they'll have to try and prevent it from being uploaded again as the case goes back to a lower court.
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.