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Court Sides With YouTube on Anti-Muslim Film That Sparked Violence in the Middle East


"The ultimate effect is to harm the marketplace of speech."

Screenshot from 'The Innocence of Muslims' (Image source: YouTube)

SAN FRANCISCO (TheBlaze/AP) -- In a victory for free speech advocates, a federal appeals court said this week YouTube should not have been forced to take down an anti-Muslim film that sparked violence in the Middle East and death threats to actors.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals issued its ruling in favor of Google Monday. The decision comes after free speech advocates urged the court to overturn a 9th Circuit panel's ruling that ordered YouTube to take down the "Innocence of Muslims," which originally was posted in 2012.

Screenshot from 'The Innocence of Muslims' (Image source: YouTube) Screenshot from 'The Innocence of Muslims' (Image source: YouTube)

Shortly after the film aired, White House officials called for it to be reviewed. At the time, YouTube refused to remove it entirely but did block it in some countries.

Actress Cindy Lee Garcia wanted "Innocence of Muslims" removed from the site after receiving death threats. Her lawyer argued she had a copyright claim to the low-budget film because she believed she was acting in a different production.

Google, which owns YouTube, however, argued Garcia had no claim to the film because the filmmaker wrote the dialogue, managed the production and dubbed over her lines.

In February 2014, after several unsuccessful legal tries, judges ruled that Garcia could make a copyright claim on the video and ordered that it be removed. But by December the appeals court began hearing arguments against this claim.

A lawyer for Google argued that if a bit player in a movie has copyright privileges, it could extend to minor characters in blockbusters, shatter copyright law and ultimately restrict free speech because anyone unhappy with their performance could have it removed from the Internet.

"The ultimate effect is to harm the marketplace of speech," attorney Neal Katyal told the court during a hearing in Pasadena.

It wasn't immediately clear if or when the video would be reposted on YouTube.

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