An appeals court is reassessing an earlier ruling that ordered YouTube to remove an anti-Islam film which had led to widespread outrage in the Middle East with some people being killed. Google’s attorney Neal Katyal recently addressed an eleven-judge panel at the 9th United States Circuit Court of Appeals in California, telling them that free speech would be hindered if the court’s ruling continued to keep the contentious film off YouTube’s network.
In February this year, a divided three-judge panel asked YouTube to take down the video, after concluding that actor Cindy Lee Garcia had a copyright version of the low-budget film titled “Innocence of Muslims.” Garcia had earlier objected to her performance being used, which she claimed had been dubbed in for its inclusion in the trailer. She said she was unaware of any film titled “Innocence of Muslims,” that her project was called “Desert Warrior,” and it was described as a historical adventure film that would be set in the Arabian Desert. She also said she was unaware that any anti-Islamic content would be added to the film in its post-production stage.
“The ruling will fragment copyright law and restrict free speech if it stands,” Katyal told the judges on December 15.
Google has received support for its appeal from its internet rival Yahoo, esteemed filmmakers, as well as established news media outlets such as The New York Times, all of whom believe the court should not infringe upon the First Amendment rights guaranteed in the American Constitution or tweak existing copyright laws.
The trailer for “Innocence of Muslims” was uploaded on YouTube in July 2012 and Garcia’s voice was reportedly dubbed to make her character ask Prophet Muhammad whether he was a child molester. Obviously, the trailer was seen as insulting the Prophet and it led to violent protests and demonstrations across Egypt and several other Muslim countries subsequently. While several people were wounded, 50 were reported dead. In addition, fatwas were issued against those who participated in the video and a minister in Pakistan even offered a bounty to anyone that came forward to kill the producer of the film. The film also sparked heated debates about internet censorship and freedom of speech.
If the eleven-judge panel upholds the ruling of the three-judge panel, YouTube and similar internet companies could face takedown notices from just about anyone, which means it would qualify as an infringement of the right to freedom of speech and expression.
Photo Credits: The Atlantic