YouTube has lost an appeal and has been ordered by a federal appeals court to remove an anti-Muslim film from its site. The court also reinstated the copyright lawsuit filed by the actress who appeared in the film. Unbeknownst to her at the time of filming, her voice was eventually dubbed over in a different film and replaced with dialogue insulting the prophet Muhammad, which led to the actress receiving death threats as well as violent acts in the Middle East.
In 2011, Cindy Garcia of Los Angeles was hired to play a small four-page role in a film titled “Desert Warrior.” She received $500 for three-and-a-half days of work. Garcia discovered later that her scene had actually appeared as five seconds of a 14-minute Youtube video named “Innocence of Muslims” by filmmaker Mark Basseley Youssef aka Nakoula Basseley Nakoula aka Sam Bacile, the same filmmaker who had hired her for the fictitious film, “Desert Warrior.” In the Youtube video, Garcia’s dialogue is dubbed over to include the line, “Is your Muhammad a child molester?”
The film was responsible for the deaths of more than 50 people in the Middle East who were involved in riots against the work. Some lawmakers also blamed the film for the September 2012 death of Ambassador J. Christoper Stevens during an attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya. In addition, a fatwa ordering the deaths of Garcia and everyone else involved in the film was issued by an Egyptian cleric.
Although YouTube did remove the video from its site in most of the Middle East, the owner of YouTube, Google Inc., repeatedly refused Garcia’s requests to completely remove the anti-Muslim film from its site in all locations. Garcia lost an initial lawsuit in federal court, which ruled that she had given Youssef permission to use her scene in the film, leading her to appeal the ruling in a Court of Appeals.
Even though the actress, Cindy Garcia, had a “minimal degree of creativity” in the film, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco ruled 2-1 on Wednesday that she still maintains the right to determine how her performance may be used as well as the right to protect herself from physical violence and fraud. The one judge voting against the ruling, Judge N. Randy Smith, said that Garcia’s small role in the film was not entitled to protection of copyright. The judge further stated that the order to remove the film from Youtube may constitute a violation of the right to freedom of speech.
For its part, Google argued that keeping the video on YouTube serves the public interest and that removing it would mean little after all that has occurred. Chief Judge Alex Kozinski disagreed, stating in his majority opinion that Garcia had already been forced to relocate her business and to change residences, and that removing the film would help create a distance between her and its anti-Muslim slant.
Garcia’s lawyers released a statement Wednesday in which Garcia expresses her gratitude to the court for realizing that she has been in “real danger” since the “hateful film” was posted on YouTube and ordering it to be removed. Google has not commented on the appeals court loss.
By Jennifer Pfalz