Controversial movie Innocence of Muslims, which sparked global riots after its release in 2012, should not be banned from YouTube, an appeals court in San Francisco has ruled.
In 2014, a federal court had ordered Google to remove the movie, which mocks the Prophet Muhammad.
Actress Cindy Lee Garcia sued to get the film taken down from YouTube after she had received death threats. She had also said she was tricked into appearing in the movie.
Google has said: “We’re pleased with this latest ruling.
“We have long believed that the previous ruling was a misapplication of copyright law.”
However, no decision has yet been made over whether to reinstate Innocence of Muslims on YouTube.
In the film, released as a trailer, Cindy Lee Garcia appears to ask whether the Prophet is a child molester.
The actress said she had been told she had been performing in a completely different film and the lines dubbed without her knowledge after filming.
However, Google had argued that only the film-maker, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, owned the copyright, and, therefore, Cindy Lee Garcia had no right to demand its removal – and the appeals court agreed.
“In this case, a heartfelt plea for personal protection is juxtaposed with the limits of copyright law and fundamental principles of free speech,” wrote Judge M. Margaret McKeown.
“We are sympathetic to her plight. Nonetheless, the claim against Google is grounded in copyright law, not privacy, emotional distress, or tort law, and Garcia seeks to impose speech restrictions under copyright laws meant to foster rather than repress free expression.”
Judge M. Margaret McKeown noted that Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was currently in prison for unrelated offences.
Several people died in the global protests sparked by Innocence of Muslims release in September 2012.
Cindy Lee Garcia, a US actress who appeared in amateur anti-Islam video Innocence of Muslims that sparked protests across the Muslim world, is suing the film’s suspected director.
Cindy Lee Garcia accused Nakoula Basseley Nakoula of duping her into a “hateful” film that she was led to believe was a desert adventure movie.
She is also asking a judge to order YouTube to remove the film.
A clip dubbed into Arabic provoked widespread anger for its mocking portrayal of the Prophet Muhammad.
Innocence of Muslims, which was made in the United States, has sparked protests across the Middle East, North Africa and as far away as Sri Lanka, with some demonstrations turning into destructive and violent riots.
Cindy Lee Garcia accused Nakoula Basseley Nakoula of duping her into Innocence of Muslims that she was led to believe was a desert adventure movie
Four Americans, including Ambassador Chris Stephens, were killed during an attack on the US consulate in Benghazi, Libya.
According to Cindy Lee Garcia, the script she received had made no mention of the Prophet Muhammad or made references to religion.
She claims she has received death threats since the video was posted to YouTube, and says her association with the film has harmed her reputation.
In a court filing lodged with Los Angeles Superior Court on Wednesday, Cindy Lee Garcia alleged fraud, slander and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Lawyers for Cindy Lee Garcia contend that changes in dialogue during post-production casts her in a false light.
“[Garcia] had a legally protected interest in her privacy and the right to be free from having hateful words put in her mouth or being depicted as a bigot,” the lawsuit says.
“There was no mention of <<Mohammed>> during filming or on set. There were no references made to religion nor was there any sexual content of which Ms Garcia was aware,” it adds.
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula denies being “Sam Bacile”, a pseudonym used by the person who posted the video online.
He has gone into hiding after telling US media he was the manager of a company that helped produce the film, but US officials believe him to be the director.
Nakoula Basseley Nakoula was convicted of fraud in 2010 and ordered to pay more than $790,000 in restitution. He was released in June 2011 with the provision that he did not access the internet or use any aliases without permission.
Authorities questioned him last week over whether he had violated any of those conditions.
YouTube has so far refused Cindy Lee Garcia’s requests to remove the film, according to the lawsuit, although it has blocked it in Saudi Arabia, Libya and Egypt.
“This lawsuit is not an attack on the First Amendment nor on the right of Americans to say what they think, but does request that the offending content be removed from the Internet,” the complaint states.
Google, which owns YouTube, has blocked the film in Saudi Arabia, Libya and Egypt.
A spokesman for YouTube said they were reviewing the complaint and would be in court on Thursday.