The "Innocence of Muslims" video was technically a trailer for a longer film that started production as "Desert Warrior". The video caused a surge of violence in some parts of the middle east and the western world for its portrayal of the figure Mohammed from Islam as a fool, a sexual deviant, a delinquent and so on.
Fatwas were issued against the producer of the film, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, and against the cast. What the cast didn't know is dialogue had been dubbed over the film in post-production to add anti-Islamic sentiment.
YouTube voluntarily blocked access to the video in some countries, citing a difficult situation, but it did not remove it in the United States or most of the western world. Google did not find the content of the video in violation to its rules, finding it was about Islam and did not qualify as hate speech against a particular ethnic group.
However, actress Cindy Lee Garcia claimed to have been tricked by the producers of the film and filed a lawsuit against Google seeking to have the footage removed. Garcia had received death threats for her part in the production of the film beforehand, but was relying on a weak copyright claim in order to have the film removed from YouTube, and a district court refused her request.
Unfortunately for Google, the case ended up in the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals and a divided panel (2-1) found that her copyright claim was "fairly debateable", initiating a mandatory injunction that required Google to remove the film. Later, this was narrowed down to versions that showed Garcia.
Google was unsatisfied and urged the court to reconsider its decision, which it has and now over a year later the Ninth Circuit has sided with Google. Writing in her opinion, Judge M Margaret McKeown said the court was sympathetic to the plight of Garcia, but that her claim was "grounded in copyright law, not privacy, emotional distress, or tort law" and that Garcia was seeking to impose speech restrictions under copyright laws.
"As a consequence, the panel's mandatory injunction against Google was unjustified and is dissolved upon publication of this opinion," the opinion reads.
Judge Stephen Roy Reinhardt went further and claimed the court had, in essence, surrendered to terrorist threats.
"By leaving in place the panel's unprecedented gag order for well over a year, we surrendered to the threats of religious extremists who were offended by the film. For a United States court to do so was anathema to the principles underlying the First Amendment," Reinhardt writes.
"It is remarkable that this late in our history we have still not learned that the First Amendment prohibits us from banning free speech in order to appease terrorists, religious or otherwise, even in response to their threats of violence."
Indeed, even the White House had initially urged Google to reconsider its decision to keep the film online.
Sources and Recommended Reading:
Garcia vs. Google - Order 5/18/2015: www.ca9.uscourts.gov
Garcia vs. Google - EB Opinion 5/18/2015: cdn.ca9.uscourts.gov
Written by: James Delahunty @ 19 May 2015 17:13