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Tue 16 Dec 2014 01:16 PM

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Google argues Innocence of Muslims film ruling will 'impinge on free speech'

Parent company of YouTube appeals earlier court ruling ordering it to remove film that sparked violence in the Middle East in 2012

Google argues Innocence of Muslims film ruling will 'impinge on free speech'
Protest against the controversial film Innocence of Muslims. (AFP/GettyImages)

A lawyer for Google has claimed free speech would be restricted if a US federal court upheld a ruling ordering the film Innocence of Muslims, which sparked riots in the Middle East in 2012, be removed from YouTube.

The low-budget, anti-Muslim film also sparked death threats against the actors, leading one of them, Cindy Lee Garcia to claim she had believed she was acting in a much different production than the final product.

In February, a court ruled that she had a copyright claim over the 2012 video because she had received death threats if she was not successful in removing it.

The Google lawyer, Neal Katyal, said during an appeal on Monday, if the decision was upheld it could lead to it being extended to minor characters in blockbusters such as Titanic and The Lord of the Rings, impeach on copyright law and restrict free speech because anyone unhappy with their performance could have it removed from the Internet, Associated Press reported.

“The ultimate effect is to harm the marketplace of speech,” Katyal told a 10-judge panel.

Google was reportedly supported by filmmakers, other Internet companies and prominent news media organisations that also do not want the court to alter copyright law or infringe on First Amendment rights.

If the ruling is upheld, it could lead to countless other orders to take down videos from YouTube and other Internet companies, a task Katyal highlighted as being difficult because 300 hours of content is uploaded to YouTube every minute.

The video’s launch on YouTube in 2012 sparked violence in numerous Middle Eastern locations by some Muslims who claimed it denigrated the Prophet Muhammed (PBUH), with reports of at least 50 deaths and hundreds of injuries.

The appeals court has postponed its decision.

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