A federal appeals court has ordered YouTube to take down an anti-Muslim film that sparked violence in many parts of the Middle East.
A divided three-judge panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco on Wednesday said the YouTube posting infringed actress Cindy Lee Garcia's copyright to her role in the film.
The appeals court told Google that the video must be removed from YouTube because Garcia was able to show that she faces "irreparable harm" from it.
YouTube users who attempted to access the clip on Wednesday instead saw a blank screen and a message stating the clip is not available "due to a legal complaint."
Garcia said she was duped into appearing in the film by the man behind it, Mark Basseley Youssef.
She said the script she saw referenced neither Muslims nor Mohammad, and her voice was dubbed over after filming.
Garcia said she starred in what she thought was a low-budget movie, but it turned out that the movie was deliberately offensive to Muslims.
The 14-minute film, "Innocence of Muslims,'' depicts Mohammad as a religious fraud, pedophile and womanizer.
For a time, the U.S. State Department blamed anger over the film for the attack on the American Consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
Garcia faced death threats over her role. According to court documents, Garcia took action as soon as she started receiving the threats, including security precautions and requesting Google to remove the video from YouTube.
"While answering a casting call for a low-budget amateur film doesn’t often lead to stardom, it also rarely turns an aspiring actress into the subject of a fatwa," Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote as part of his opinion in the Garcia case.
The film's writer and producer, Mark Basseley Youssef -- who also goes by the names Nakoula Basseley and Sam Bacile -- cast Garcia in a minor role for a movie with the working title "Desert Warrior." Garcia was paid $500 for three and a half days of filming, according to court documents.
But "Desert Warrior" never materialized, and Garcia's scene was used in the "Innocence of Muslims."
In one of the dubbed-over scenes, she appears to be asking: "Is your Mohammad a child molester?"
"This is a troubling case," Kozinski wrote. "... It’s disappointing, though perhaps not surprising, that
Garcia needed to sue in order to protect herself and her rights."
Google asserted that the film is so widespread that removing it from YouTube would have no effect, but the court disagreed, arguing that taking it down would remove it from a prominent online platform and curb the harms Garcia had complained about.
The movie sparked violence in late 2012, but YouTube rebuffed requests from President Barack Obama to take it down, arguing that only the filmmaker and not the actress owned the copyright.
The court said the actress owned the copyright to her performance because she thought it was for another film unrelated to what ultimately aired.