Anti-Islam film: Actress sues YouTube in federal court

Los Angeles: An actress who said she was duped into appearing in an anti-Islam film that stoked violent protests across the Muslim world took her legal bid to federal court on Wednesday in a renewed effort to force it off YouTube.

The lawsuit filed by Cindy Lee Garcia names the popular online video site YouTube and its parent company Google Inc as defendants, along with the Egyptian-American Coptic Christian from California believed to be behind the making of the film.

Last week, a Los Angeles Superior Court judge denied Garcia's request for a temporary restraining order that would have required YouTube to stop posting the crudely made 13-minute video, finding the actress was unlikely to prevail on the merits of her case in state court.

As in her previous lawsuit, Garcia accused the purported filmmaker of fraud, libel and unfair business practices. But her federal lawsuit also asserts a copyright claim to her performance in the video, titled The Innocence of Muslims.

Garcia's case was the first known civil litigation stemming from the video, billed as a film trailer, which depicts the Prophet Mohammad as a fool and a sexual deviant. The clip sparked a torrent of anti-American unrest in Egypt, Libya and dozens of other Muslim countries over the past two weeks.

Cindy Lee Garcia (L) the actress in the film. Reuters

The outbreak of violence coincided with an attack on US diplomatic facilities in Benghazi that killed four Americans, including the US ambassador to Libya.

US and other foreign embassies were also stormed in various cities across the Middle East, Asia and Africa. For many Muslims, any depiction of the prophet is considered blasphemous.

Google has refused to remove the film from YouTube, despite pressure from the White House and others to take it down, though the company has blocked the trailer in Egypt, Libya and other Muslim countries.

Copyright issue

Garcia's lawyer argued in court last week that her client, who is from Bakersfield, California, has suffered harm similar to a person whose privacy is violated by the unauthorised release of a sex tape.

But Google's attorneys said that the rights of an actor do not protect that person from how a film is perceived.

In her latest lawsuit filed in US District Court in Santa Clara, California, Garcia says that Google is infringing on the copyright she holds to her performance in the film by distributing the video without her approval via YouTube.

Garcia's lawsuit identifies Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, 55, a Los Angeles-area Coptic man who has served time in federal prison for bank fraud, as the film's producer.

On Saturday, a Pakistani cleric offered a $100,000 reward to anyone who killed the film's maker. Garcia said in her lawsuit that an Egyptian cleric had issued a fatwa, or religious edict, against anyone who served as a director, producer or actor in the video.

According to Garcia, Nakoula operated under the assumed name of Sam Bacile, misleading her and other actors into appearing in a film they believed was an adventure drama called Desert Warrior

After the fact, however, she learned that some of her lines spoken in the production had been dubbed over.

The alteration made it look like Garcia "voluntarily performed in a hateful, anti-Islamic production," the lawsuit says, adding that she has "been subjected to credible death threats and is in fear for her life and the life and safety of anyone associated with her."

Nakoula has been in hiding for much of the past two weeks after being questioned by federal authorities looking into whether he may have violated terms of his probation in the making or promotion of the video.


Updated Date: Sep 27, 2012 11:47 AM

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