In a rather candid moment from Google, the tech giant has replaced the trailer for Nakoula Basseley Nakoula's upcoming anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims not with their standard takedown filler, but an image taking issue with a court's decision to order it removed.
While Nakoula's film is incredibly controversial, sparking riots that killed at least 19 people across the Muslim world, prompting Pakistan to block YouTube, and even spurring a request from the White House to take it down (since denied), it's not the anti-Islam aspect of the film that drew the court order. Instead, it was actress Cindy Lee Garcia, who sued the filmmakers over claims that she was a victim of fraud, invasion of privacy, and misappropriation of her likeness. Multiple rounds of sparring court decisions resulted in the current order by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which Google is appealing.
"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. "Despite these harms, and despite Garcia's viable copyright claim, Google refused to remove the film from YouTube."
But Google isn't having it. While not defending the contents of the film, they are defending it on the grounds of free speech.
"Our laws permit even the vilest criticisms of governments, political leaders, and religious figures as legitimate exercises in free speech," the company wrote.
According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation, the removal order is "spurious" and "blows past the First Amendment concerns with the time-worn observation that the 'First Amendment does not protect copyright infringement.'"
"Of course it doesn't, but neither are copyright cases immune from the same balancing test that applies to any injunction," said EFF's Corynne McSherry. "The merits of this case are indeed doubtful. Very doubtful. Garcia is claiming a copyright interest in her brief performance ... [but] she had no creative control over the movie, but simply performed the lines given to her."