Media organizations challenge order to take down anti-Muslim video

Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

Major news organizations have filed a friend-of-the-court brief supporting Google and YouTube in their effort to overturn a takedown order for an anti-Muslim video that inflamed Islamic communities worldwide.

“Innocence of Muslims,” a badly produced 14-minute video insulting to the Islamic faithful, prompted protests in 2012 after it was uploaded to YouTube and translated into Arabic. Some have blamed the video for the attack on a U.S. temporary diplomatic office in Benghazi, Libya, and death of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other Americans.

A Pakistani minister offered a bounty for the death of the filmmaker, Mark Basseley Youssef, also known as Nakoula Basseley Nakoula and Sam Bacile.

In late February, a three-person panel of the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ordered Google, YouTube’s owner, to remove the video from the site following actress Cindy Lee Garcia’s claims that she was not told of the film’s purpose and actors’ words were dubbed in post-production. She said her copyright was infringed and that she had been threatened since the video went online.

Google appealed for a hearing before the entire Ninth Circuit, saying the panel failed to consider its decision’s full effect on First Amendment rights.

The Los Angeles Times, The E.W. Scripps Co., The Washington Post, Advance Publications, National Public Radio, California Newspaper Publishers Association, Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press, the First Amendment Coalition and The Digital Media Law Project joined in filing the supporting brief, the RCFP said in a statement. Filed last Friday, the brief states:

By ordering the immediate suppression of a controversial video that has been the subject of widespread discussion over the last two years, based on the alleged copyright interest of one performer who appears in a few seconds of the film, the Panel’s decision poses serious risk to news organizations that extend far beyond this case.

The news organizations said the decision “expands the concept of copyright ownership in a manner that could allow the subjects of news coverage to exercise veto power over unflattering broadcasts” and “lays the foundation for copyright claims by countless individuals depicted in news broadcasts or photographs, no matter how fleeting.”

Other companies and organizations have filed court briefs supporting Google’s appeal, including Adobe, eBay, Facebook, and Yahoo.

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