The short Internet video that the Obama administration blamed for the organized terror attack on U.S. facilities in Benghazi, Libya, that killed four Americans now has been caught up in a First Amendment case.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation, a civil-rights group focused on the “digital world,” is asking a federal appeals court for another review of its decision to have “Innocence of Muslims” removed from the Internet.
The 14-minute “trailer” of a purported full-length film by Egyptian-born Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, which was posted on YouTube.com, was blamed by top Obama officials including then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for the terror attack on U.S. operations in Benghazi.
A little more than two weeks after the attack, Nakoula was arrested in Los Angeles and charged with violating terms of his probation on bank fraud charges. In an interview with WND, he said he made the movie to warn America about the threat of Islamic jihad.
The case was launched by actress Cindy Lee Garcia, who claimed she was “was tricked into appearing on-screen, overdubbed, for five seconds.”
The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals has ordered Google to remove any traces of the video from the Internet.
Garcia sued Google, claiming a copyright infringement, even though the federal government declined to grant her a copyright for her five seconds.
She alleged that as a result, she has a right to the entire video.
A panel from the 9th Circuit agreed with her, ordering Google to remove the video and to not speak about the issue.
Now EFF and several other organizations are trying to have the decision reversed.
“The case is troubling for a number of reasons,” EFF said. “First, as the court itself admits, the copyright claim is doubtful at best (in fact the Copyright Office expressly rejected her effort to register a copyright). Second, the order amounts to a prior restraint of speech, something that should never happen where the underlying claim is ‘doubtful.'”
EFF said the court “dismissed that concern by claiming that the First Amendment doesn’t protect copyright infringement, which missed the point.”
“The First Amendment does protect lawful speech, which is why courts shouldn’t issue censorship orders in all but the rarest circumstances, and only where it is highly likely that the speech is actually unlawful. Third, the court’s ruling was accompanied by a gag order forbidding Google from discussing the ruling for almost a week.”
The organization said the video was “linked to the violent attack on an American diplomatic compound in Benghazi, Libya, although that was later refuted.”
Corynne McSherry, director of EFF Intellectual Property, said the video “is a matter of extreme public concern – the center of a roiling, global debate.”
“The injunction in place now means we can still talk about the video – but we can’t see what we are actually talking about,” she said. “While the injunction stretched the First Amendment beyond its intent, the gag order snapped it in half. It delayed the public and the press from discovering this unprecedented copyright decision, and prevented others from challenging the ruling.”
EFF Staff Attorney Nate Cardozo said the decision “means that any number of creative contributors – from actors to makeup artists to set designers – could be entitled to royalties and even control over the distribution of works they were paid to contribute to.”
“Such a rule would stifle creative expression for big studios and amateur filmmakers alike,” he said. “While we can understand Garcia’s desire to distance herself from this film, copyright law is not designed to address the harm she suffered by suppressing the global debate on a matter of public concern.”
The decision to blame the video for the Benghazi violence never has been explained fully by the Obama administration, which also has failed to provide answers to many other questions about the attack.
A Citizens’ Commission on Benghazi said it will hold a roundtable Tuesday to release new information at the National Press Club.
“After more than a year of investigations, various official reports issued by Congress and the State Department have left behind many unanswered questions surrounding the scandal,” the group said.
WND columnist Pam Geller said the order to remove the video from the Internet was an example of “freedom of speech in the age of jihad.”
“Freedom of speech – another relic of the enlightened era before we entered this dark and sinister age,” she said.
Geller called the 9th Circuit’s ruling “a craven capitulation to the dictates of the Shariah, based on technical copyright law.”
“Imagine if every actor and actress sued to remove a film in which the producer changed the story or their lines were dubbed,” she said. “We’d have very little cinema (with the garbage Hollywood produces these days, not an altogether bad thing). Did Cindy Lee Garcia sign a release, or did she not?”
It was Hillary Clinton who, according to the father of slain Navy SEAL Tyrone Woods, vowed that the person who made the video would be arrested and prosecuted. Joe Woods said he spoke with Clinton when the body of his son arrived in the U.S. from Benghazi.
But evidence shows the White House knew immediately that the Benghazi incident was an organized terror strike, not a random act of violence by an out-of-control mob of Muslims, as top Obama officials claimed even weeks after the attack.