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U.S. judge refuses to order anti-Muslim film off YouTube

Cindy Lee Garcia, right, one of the actresses in "Innocence of Muslims," and attorney M. Cris Armenta hold a news conference before a hearing at Los Angeles Superior Court in Los Angeles, Thursday, Sept. 20, 2012. (AP Photo/Jason Redmond)

LOS ANGELES: An actress who said she was duped into appearing in an anti-Islam film that stoked violent protests against the United States across the Muslim world on Friday lost her second legal bid to force the video off of YouTube.

Denying a request by actress Cindy Lee Garcia for a court order requiring the popular online video site to remove the crudely made 13-minute clip, a federal judge found she was unlikely to prevail on her claims of copyright infringement.

U.S. District Judge Michael Fitzgerald of Santa Clara, California, also canceled a Dec. 3 hearing he had previously set for oral arguments over Garcia's request.

Garcia's lawyer, Cris Armenta, told Reuters she planned to appeal the decision.

The lawsuit, filed in September, names YouTube and its parent company Google Inc. as defendants, along with the Egyptian-American Coptic Christian from California who was behind the making of the film.

A previous motion by Garcia for a temporary restraining order against YouTube's continued posting of the video was rejected by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge.

Garcia's case was the first known civil litigation stemming from the video, billed as a film trailer, which depicts the Prophet Mohammad as a fool and a sexual deviant. The clip sparked a torrent of anti-American unrest in Egypt, Libya and dozens of other Muslim countries over the past two weeks.

The outbreak of violence coincided with an attack on U.S. diplomatic facilities in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the U.S. ambassador to Libya.

U.S. and other foreign embassies were also stormed in various cities across the Middle East, Asia and Africa. For many Muslims, any depiction of the prophet is considered blasphemous.

Google has refused to remove the film from YouTube, despite pressure from the White House and others to take it down, though the company has blocked the trailer in Egypt, Libya and other Muslim countries.

Garcia has accused the purported filmmaker of fraud, libel and unfair business practices.

But her federal lawsuit also asserts a copyright claim to her performance in the video, titled "The Innocence of Muslims," and accuses Google of infringing on that copyright by distributing the video without her approval via YouTube.

But in a three-page ruling, the judge questioned the validity of such a claim. He held that even if she could prove a legitimate copyright interest in her film performance, she effectively relinquished her rights to producers of the film.

Fitzgerald also ruled that Garcia failed to show that she would suffer irreparable harm without an injunction.

Garcia's lawsuit identifies Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, a Los Angeles-area Coptic man who has served time in federal prison for bank fraud, as the film's producer. His legal name has since been established to be Mark Basseley Youssef.

According to the lawsuit, Youssef operated under the assumed name of Sam Bacile, misleading Garcia and other performers into appearing in a film they believed was an adventure drama called "Desert Warrior." After the fact, she learned some of her lines spoken in the production had been dubbed over.

The alteration made it look like Garcia "voluntarily performed in a hateful, anti-Islamic production," the lawsuit says, adding that she has "been subjected to credible death threats and is in fear for her life and the life and safety of anyone associated with her."

Youssef was sent back to jail for a year on Nov. 7 for probation violations stemming from his role in making the video, including his use of an alias in connection with the film.

 

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