Judge won’t order removal of anti-Islam YouTube video at center of Benghazi debate

Gregg Re Editor
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The anti-Islam film the White House initially blamed for inciting the Sept. 11, 2012 attack on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi can stay up on YouTube, a federal judge ruled Friday.

Actress Cindy Lee Garcia filed suit in Los Angeles County Superior Court in September, claiming that the film’s producer was guilty of fraud, slander, intentional infliction of emotional distress and unfair business practices for convincing her to appear in the film, “The Innocence of Muslims,” which mocks Islam’s prophet Muhammad.

In the California lawsuit, Garcia claimed the producer, 55-year old Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, had permanently harmed her reputation by lying to her about the purpose of the film and dubbing over her dialogue. (RELATED: Nakoula receives explicit death threats from irate Muslims)

“Plaintiff is falsely made to appear to accuse the founder of the Islamic religion of being a sexual deviant and child molester,” the lawsuit alleged, noting that Garcia had lost her job after her involvement in the film became public.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Luis Lavin in September rejected Garcia’s request for a restraining order requiring YouTube — a subsidiary of the search-engine giant Google — to remove the video, agreeing with Google’s lawyers that federal law protects the company’s right to host the inflammatory content.

U.S. District Judge Michael Fitzgerald affirmed on Friday that the video can stay online for now, all but rejecting out of hand Garcia’s additional argument that she has a copyright claim to her performance.

In the three-page ruling denying Garcia’s request for a preliminary injunction against Google, Fitzgerald said she would have difficulty showing she had not relinquished her copyright for the performance.

The judge added that Garcia did not show that an injunction was necessary to prevent immediate, irreparable damage to her reputation — a high standard plaintiffs typically must meet before judges order content removed from Internet websites.

Garcia’s lawyer, Cris Armenta, announced in a press release that it is unlikely the actress will appeal the injunction ruling to the liberal Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals, largely because of her limited financial resources.

“Unfortunately, our client, Ms. Garcia, is a woman of extremely modest means. Aside from this film turning her life upside down and being subjected to frightening death threats and threats of harm, she does not have the financial resources to continue to wage battle against Internet giants,” Armenta said in a statement.

It is unclear whether the Ninth Circuit would agree to hear an appeal on the injunction ruling if it were filed.

Nakoula, the film’s producer, is serving a one-year jail term for violating the terms of his probation by making the video. Attention focused on Nakoula after numerous government officials, including President Barack Obama and U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice, implied his film sparked the attack that killed U.S. Ambassador Christopher Stevens and three other Americans in Libya.

The administration has since walked back those claims and acknowledged that the strike was a pre-planned, coordinated terrorist action.

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