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Federal appeals court orders Google to remove controversial anti-Islamic video

The US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] on Wednesday ordered [opinion, PDF] Google [corporate website] to remove from its YouTube video-sharing website an anti-Islamic film that incited massive anti-American protest in the Muslim world in 2012. The court found in favor of appellant Cindy Lee Garcia, reversing a US District Court's denial of Garcia's request for an injunction to remove the film [JURIST report], Innocence of Muslims [BBC backgrounder]. Garcia, who appears in the film, says her performance was intended for a different film, but her voice was dubbed over with an anti-Islamic epithet and incorporated into Innocence of Muslims. The film soon garnered worldwide news coverage accompanied by violent anti-American protests [JURIST report] throughout the Middle East. An Egyptian cleric ordered the deaths of everyone involved with the film, and Garcia began receiving death threats. Garcia sought removal of the film, claiming the posting "infringed her copyright in her performance." Google argued that an injunction would violate its First Amendment right to free speech, to which the appeals court responded, "the First Amendment doesn't protect copyright infringement" and since Garcia will likely succeed on her pending copyright claim and risks "irreparable harm" without an injunction, the "balance of equities and the public interest favor her position."

Since its release in July 2012, Innocence of Muslims has generated considerable unrest in the Muslim world accompanied by serious tensions between the US and Middle East. The film, depicting the Prophet Muhammad as a fool and a womanizer, enraged many of the world's faithful Muslims and led to violent protests [Reuters report] in Egypt, Libya and other Middle East countries as well as Asia and Africa. The unrest included an attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, killing [JURIST report] US Ambassador Christopher Stevens along with three other Americans. Earlier this month, Thomas Joscelyn of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies [advocacy website], testifying [text, PDF] before a House Committee hearing on Al Qaeda's expansion in Egypt, stated that the film was used "as a pretext for terrorism." Joscelyn stated that "multiple known al Qaeda actors seized upon the ... video as a pretext to justify protests and assaults on US diplomatic facilities."

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