Appeals court to revisit controversial YouTube video takedown

The court ruled in February that YouTube should take down the anti-Muslim video

An appeals court in the U.S. is reviewing a February decision ordering Google to pull down from YouTube the controversial "Innocence of Muslims" video that sparked off violence in many countries in 2012.

In a 2-1 decision, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit had ruled that actress Cindy Lee Garcia, who was shown in the anti-Islam movie trailer, had established the possibility that irreparable harm would result in the absence of an injunction, as she was subject to death threats and took action as soon as she began receiving the threats.

Garcia held that she owned a copyright to her role in the trailer, and the court said she had established "sufficient causal connection" between the infringement of her copyright and the harm she alleged.

Google was later allowed to keep the trailer, which mocks the Prophet Muhammad, but the video had to be scrubbed to remove the performance of Garcia. A district court had earlier refused the injunction.

A full panel of 11 judges from the Ninth Circuit will now hear the case, according to an order issued Wednesday. The oral arguments will be heard in San Francisco during the week of Dec. 15.

The decision of the Federal Circuit in February was criticized by some Internet companies like Netflix, Internet law professors and civil rights groups for creating a new interpretation of copyright. Some also said the takedown raised concerns under the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution which covers freedom of expression.

"Based on nothing more than a tenuous (at best) copyright claim, the court has ordered a service provider to censor a video that has been the subject of considerable debate and comment, with only the most cursory analysis of the speech harms it will cause," digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote in February.

Garcia has not claimed copyright interest in the trailer, but only in her performance within the film. Google argued that Garcia's performance was a work made for hire or, alternatively, that she granted the producer an implied license to use her performance in "Innocence of Muslims."

John Ribeiro covers outsourcing and general technology breaking news from India for The IDG News Service. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnribeiro. John's e-mail address is john_ribeiro@idg.com

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