A federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday that Google must remove an anti-Islam film that generated riots across the Middle East and Asia in September 2012.
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a 2-1 decision rejected the tech company's argument that removing the video from its online video website, YouTube, would violate the company's First Amendment protections, reported The Associated Press.
Two judges' proved sympathetic to actress Cindy Lee Garcia, who claimed that she had been cast for a small role known as "Desert Warrior," for which director Mark Basseley Youssef had paid her $500. But while the film she had signed up for never materialized, Garcia later found out that the scene had instead been used in the "Innocence of Muslims."
English language versions of the video was first uploaded in the summer of 2012. After Arabic language iterations of it surfaced on YouTube in September, thousands protested against the film in Pakistan, Egypt, Lebanon, Malaysia and Bangladesh. Four Americans were also killed on Sept. 11, 2012, in Libya, in attacks that the Obama administration alleges were sparked by the video.
Subsequently, Garcia became the subject of death threats, a fact which the judges proved sympathetic toward. They also acknowledged her arguments that YouTube had given the film a mass audience and that she "retained copyright protections for her artistic work."
"Garcia's performance was used in a way that she found abhorrent and her appearance in the film subjected her to threats of physical harm and even death," Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote for the majority court. "Despite these harms, and despite Garcia's viable copyright claim, Google refused to remove the film from YouTube."
Garcia was not the only actor who found her image used for something other than what she had assumed was the intended purpose of the film. According to a WNYC report, the majority of the film's religious references were later dubbed into the movie after filming.
"The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer," the 80 cast and crew members associated with the film said in a statement released in September 2012. "We are 100 percent not behind this film and were grossly misled about its intent and purpose. We are shocked by the drastic re-writes of the script and lies that were told to all involved. We are deeply saddened by the tragedies that have occurred."
Garcia said that her case was not an attempt to show displeasure for the First Amendment, but rather because she did not want to be associated with the film's message.
"I am a strong believer and supporter of the First Amendment and have the right not to be associated with this hateful speech against my will," she said in a statement.
In the 14-minute film, Mohammad as a religious fraud, pedophile and womanizer. Islam generally condemns images of the prophet.