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Google ordered to remove anti-Muslim film from YouTube

By Elizabeth Landau and Miguel Marquez, CNN
updated 6:02 PM EST, Wed February 26, 2014
Indian Muslims gather for a protest against the controversial film 'Innocence of Muslims' in Kolkata on September 27, 2012.
Indian Muslims gather for a protest against the controversial film 'Innocence of Muslims' in Kolkata on September 27, 2012.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Actress in "The Innocence of Muslims" had sued Google, filmmaker
  • She had been cast in a role in a different film
  • Actress had received deaths threats
  • Violent protests erupted in connection with the film in 2012

(CNN) -- Google must remove the inflammatory film "The Innocence of Muslims" from YouTube.com, a federal appeals court ordered Wednesday. The film had been connected to violent demonstrations in several countries

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed a district court's earlier denial of an injunction that would require taking the film down. Wednesday's order resulted from a lawsuit filed by Cindy Lee Garcia, one of the actresses in the film, against YouTube, its parent company Google, and the producer of the film, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, among others.

"Garcia was duped into providing an artistic performance that was used in a way she never could have foreseen. Her unwitting and unwilling inclusion in 'Innocence of Muslims' led to serious threats against her life," 9th Circuit Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote in his opinion.

Kozinski wrote that Garcia had been cast in a minor role in a film whose working title was "Desert Warrior," and received about $500 for three and a half days of filming. But "Desert Warrior" never materialized; instead, the scene she acted in was used in "Innocence of Muslims."

"Garcia first saw 'Innocence of Muslims' after it was uploaded to YouTube and she discovered that her brief performance had been partially dubbed over so that she appeared to be asking, 'Is your Mohammed a child molester?' " Kozinski wrote.

Garcia's lawsuit also alleged that the copyright of her performance had been infringed. Google argued "that Garcia didn't make a protectable contribution to the film" since Nakoula -- whose aliases include Mark Basseley Youssef, a name cited in the lawsuit -- wrote the dialogue that Garcia spoke, managed the production and dubbed over part of the scene, Kozinski wrote.

Cindy Lee Garcia, one of the actresses in \
Cindy Lee Garcia, one of the actresses in "Innocence of Islam," sued the film's producer and Google.

READ: Actress in anti-Islamic film files lawsuit against filmmaker and YouTube

Google sent the following statement to CNN Wednesday: "Today the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that an actress in the Innocence of Muslims trailer may have a copyright claim over her five-second appearance in the video. As a result the court ordered Google to remove the video from our services. We strongly disagree with this ruling and will fight it."

The film portrays the Prophet Mohammed as a womanizer, buffoon, ruthless killer and child molester. Islam categorically forbids any depictions of Mohammed, and blasphemy is an incendiary taboo in the Muslim world.

The movie, backed by hardcore anti-Islam groups in the United States, is a low-budget project that was ignored in the United States when trailers were posted on YouTube in July 2012.

But after Egyptian television aired certain segments, violent protests erupted in several Middle Eastern and Northern African nations, and in Muslim populations elsewhere in the world.

The anger faded, however, particularly after filmmaker Nakoula's arrest on September 27, 2012.

Although the film was not the direct reason for his incarceration, authorities found that his actions producing "The Innocence of Muslims" violated the terms of his probation for a 2010 bank fraud conviction.

He was released from prison in May 2013.

Garcia had begun receiving death threats after an Egyptian cleric called for everyone involved with the film to be killed, Kozinski wrote.

"While answering a casting call for a low-budget amateur film doesn't often lead to stardom, it also rarely turns an aspiring actress into the subject of a fatwa," Kozinski wrote.

READ: 'Innocence of Muslims' filmmaker set to be released

CNN's Stella Chan, Stan Wilson, Carey Bodenheimer and Greg Botelho contributed to this report.

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