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YouTube should not have been forced to take down "Innocence of Muslims," an anti-Muslim film that sparked violence in the Middle East and death threats to actors, a federal appeals court ruled Monday. An 11-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said that an injunction that had prohibited Google, which owns YouTube, from broadcasting the film should be dissolved. The 9th Circuit opted to rehear the case after an earlier three-judge panel opinion had ordered Google to take down the controversial 2012 film. Actress Cindy Lee Garcia wanted "Innocence of Muslims" removed from the site after receiving death threats. Her lawyer argued she had a copyright claim to the low-budget film because she believed she was acting in a different production. Google argued Garcia had no claim to the film because the filmmaker wrote the dialogue, managed the production and dubbed over her lines. It wasn't immediately clear if or when the video would be reposted on YouTube. Google did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.
The film inspired rioting by those who considered it blasphemous to the Prophet Muhammad, and President Barack Obama and other world leaders asked Google to take it down. Google, which said those requests amounted to censorship, was joined by an unusual alliance of filmmakers, other Internet companies and prominent news media organizations that didn't want the court to alter copyright law or infringe on First Amendment rights.
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