A US appeals court has ruled that YouTube should be allowed to show an uploaded film that sparked outrage in the Arab world. The video, "Innocence of Muslims," depicted the Prophet Muhammad in a negative light.
The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeal in San Francisco on Monday agreed with Google, which owns YouTube, after free speech advocates urged the court to overturn a 2-1 decision by three of its judges.
The three judges had ordered that YouTube take down the video, after actress Cindy Lee Garcia demanded that it be pulled. The actress was featured in a short section of the film, in which footage of her from another movie was dubbed with lines deemed blasphemous to the Islamic Prophet Muhammad.
The online video triggered anti-American unrest among Muslims in the Egypt, Libya, Pakistan and Yemen - among others - in 2012, as well as threats against those involved. Garcia's lawyer argued that she was under threat of death if she was unsuccessful in removing the film.
Although they expressed sympathy for the plight of the actress, the justices on Monday reasoned that "a weak copyright claim cannot justify censorship in the guise of authorship."
Censoring "Innocence of Muslims" violated the First Amendment right to free speech at a time of intense debate and interest in actions, the justices said.
Voice dubbed over
Garcia was paid $500 (about 385 euros at the time) for a movie called "Desert Warrior," which she claims she believed had nothing to do with religion. A five-second clip appeared in the "Innocence of Muslims" video, in which her voice was dubbed as her character asked if the prophet was a child molester.
The movie inspired rioting by those who considered it blasphemous, and President Barack Obama along with other world leaders asked Google to take it down.
The justices in the original hearing in February demanded the film's removal, with Garcia claiming to own some of the copyright - and hence no right to have the film restricted.
A dissenting judge in the original hearing sided with Google, saying Garcia played no creative role. However, the prevailing view at the time went against Google.
rc/cmk (AP, AFP, Reuters)