The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered Google to remove an anti-Muslim video from YouTube, according to Reuters.
In a 2-1 decision the panel of judges rejected Google’s claim that forced-removal of the film “Innocence of Muslims” amounted to prior restraint of speech and violated the company’s constitutional rights.
The plaintiff in the case, Cindy Lee Garcia, filed the lawsuit after learning that the creators of the video used a clip she had been told was being used for a different movie. The clip was dubbed over and Garcia appeared to be asking in it, “Is your Mohammed a child molester?”
The actress said she had received death threats since the video first aired on Egyptian television. The film sparked protests across the Muslim world in 2012 and, for a time, was thought to be the impetus of the deadly attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi, Libya that killed four Americans, including U.S. Ambassador Chris Stevens.
Garcia claimed she had repeatedly asked Google to take the video down but was denied. In her lawsuit Garcia argued that YouTube’s popularity gave the film a broad audience and she had a right to have it removed because she was misled by the director and retained copyrights to her work.
Google responded that taking the film down now would serve no purpose as it had already been circulated around the Internet. Furthermore, they argued, Garcia added to her own notoriety by filing the lawsuit. One judge dismissed that claim as “preposterous” according to a San Jose Mercury News story.
Google “strongly disagrees with this decision and will fight it,” said a company spokesman. Google can ask the 9th Circuit to rehear the case with the full 11-judge panel.
The ruling has sparked legal debate among experts. Julie Ahrens, director of copyright and fair use at Stanford University’s Center for Internet and Society, called the decision stunning.
"The idea that copyright is a tool that's going to be used to censor speech we don't like ... that's very dangerous,” she said.
Garcia said, in a statement, that she considers herself a strong supporter of the First Amendment but that she does “have the right not to be associated with this hateful speech against [her] will.”
Garcia’s lawyer, M. Cris Armenta, called the decision a “David versus Goliath victory.”