Reporters Committee joins effort to overturn YouTube take-down order over "Innocence of Muslims"

Press Release | April 17, 2014

The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press has joined other media organizations in a friend-of-the-court brief in support of Google’s effort to reverse a Ninth Circuit decision involving the take-down of a video on You Tube.

A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit ordered Google to remove the video from You Tube after an actress in the video claimed she was tricked into appearing in an anti-Islamic video and that her copyright was infringed. The video reportedly flamed the actions behind the attack on the U.S. consulate in Benghazi, and the actress maintains that she has been threatened since it appeared online.

Google has argued that the ruling, authored by Judge Alex Kozinski, violates the First Amendment and is asking for the full appeals court to consider its argument.

“The Panel majority expansively interpreted copyright law to provide a remedy to an undeniably sympathetic plaintiff, without considering the important First Amendment interests implicated by its decision. By ordering the immediate suppression of a controversial video that has been the subject of widespread discussion over the last two years, based on the alleged copyright interest of one performer who appears in a few seconds of the film, the Panel’s decision poses serious risk to news organizations that extend far beyond this case,” argues the brief, which was written by Kelli Sager of Davis Wright Tremaine.

Stating that the strict tests for prior restraint were not considered, the media amicus brief noted that “the Panel decision arguably expands the concept of copyright ownership in a manner that could allow the subjects of news coverage to exercise veto power over unflattering broadcasts.”

“The Decision similarly lays the foundation for copyright claims by countless individuals depicted in news broadcasts or photographs, no matter how fleeting,” the brief concluded. “[E]ven if the Decision is limited to the expressive work at issue here, news coverage about the film and this lawsuit is undeniably hampered…. Both First Amendment and copyright law support the ability of news organizations to include excerpts from a film, like this clip, in reporting about a controversy surrounding the video.”

Judge N. Randy Smith dissented from the 2-1 ruling.