Judge denies request to stop anti-Muslim film clip

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LOS ANGELES (AP) - An actress who appeared in an anti-Muslim film trailer that sparked violence in the Middle East lost her legal challenge on Thursday to have the 14-minute trailer taken down from YouTube.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Luis Lavin rejected the request from Cindy Lee Garcia because she wasn’t able to produce any agreement she had with the makers of “Innocence of Muslims” and the man behind the film hadn’t been served with a copy of her lawsuit.

Garcia’s attorney, Cris Armenta, told reporters that her client plans to return to court in three weeks with more evidence to bolster her case.

The video posted to YouTube has been linked to protests that continue to rage across the Middle East. The White House has asked YouTube to take it down and the company has refused, saying it doesn’t violate its content standards.

While Thursday’s legal ruling might further antagonize protesters, the lawsuit had little chance of succeeding because of a federal law that protects third parties from liability for content they handle, legal experts said.

“From the beginning this was a Hail Mary pass,” said Jeremiah Reynolds, a Los Angeles attorney who specializes in intellectual property and First Amendment cases. “I think they hoped the judge would have enough sympathy for this woman to have him take the video down.”

Garcia is suing for fraud and slander against Internet search giant Google, which owns YouTube, and Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the man behind the video who has gone into hiding since it rose to prominence last week.

The 14-minute trailer depicts Muhammad as a womanizer, religious fraud and child molester.

Garcia claimed she was duped by Nakoula and that the script she saw referenced neither Muslims nor Muhammad. She also said her voice had been dubbed over after filming.

Her lawsuit mirrors similar claims made by those who said they were fooled by actor Sacha Baron Cohen during the making of “Borat” and “Bruno.” The British comedian was unsuccessfully sued by some non-actors who appeared in his movie who weren’t familiar with his outlandish characters.

“Although this is a much more serious situation, the (legal) analysis should be the same,” Reynolds said. “It’s an act that is protected by the First Amendment.”

Cindy Cohen, the legal director for San Francisco-based Electronic Frontier Foundation, said Garcia does have a claim against the filmmaker but not against Google.

“The law protects Google here because they aren’t the producers of the film,” Cohen said. “You don’t want a situation where the host is responsible for the content. Then nobody would ever be a host.”

Garcia’s lawsuit contends that keeping the film online violates her right of publicity, invades her privacy rights and that post-filming dialogue changes cast her in a false light.

“I think we need to take it (the film) off because it will continue to cause more problems,” she said. “I think it’s demoralizing, degrading.”

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