[JURIST] Sitting en banc, the US Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit [official website] overturned [opinion, PDF] a three-judge panel decision against Google [corporate website] that had required it to remove the controversial, anti-Islam Innocence of Muslims [BBC backgrounder] video from its YouTube [media website] site. The court dissolved the takedown injunction, holding that the injunction infringed upon the First Amendment and was an incorrect remedy as a matter of law. Judge Margaret McKeown wrote for the majority:
“[The takedown order] gave short shrift to the First Amendment values at stake. The mandatory injunction censored and suppressed a politically significant film—based upon a dubious and unprecedented theory of copyright. In so doing, the panel deprived the public of the ability to view firsthand, and judge for themselves, a film at the center of an international uproar.”
YouTube may now replace the film on its website for viewing.
The initial lawsuit [JURIST report] requesting that the film be removed from YouTube was filed by Cindy Lee Garcia, an actress who claimed to have been tricked into appearing in the video. Garcia was in the video for only five seconds, but she has received death threats for her performance, and she sought protection under copyright law. Although Innocence of Muslims is a spoof film, its characterization of the Prophet Mohammed as a fool and womanizer incited a rapid and violent uprising in the Middle East upon its release in September 2012, including an attack on the US Consulate in Benghazi, Libya, that left US Ambassador Christopher Stevens [WP obituary] and three other Americans dead. Egypt banned YouTube due to the film and upheld the death sentences [JURIST reports] of seven Coptic Christians and an American preacher on charges stemming from the film.