An appeals court in the United States on Monday ruled that Google-owned YouTube should not be barred from showing the "Innocence of Muslims" film that outraged Muslims in 2012.
A full 11-justice panel of the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco sided with YouTube and rejected a court decision last year ordering the service to keep what has been called a "blasphemous video" off of its online stage.
Actress Cindy Lee Garcia pitched a legal battle based on an argument that her five-second appearance in the film gave her copyright authority enough to prevent it from being shown without her permission.
The snippet featuring the actress was taken from work she had done for a different film, and a dubbed-over line given to her character was offensive to the Islamic religion, according to her court case.
The amateurish movie, which depicted the Muslim prophet Mohammed as a thuggish deviant, triggered a wave of violent protests in the Muslim world that left dozens dead in September 2012.
"In this case, a heartfelt plea for personal protection is juxtaposed with the limits of copyright law and fundamental principles of free speech," Justice Margaret McKeown wrote for the appellate court, according to AFP.
"By all accounts, Cindy Lee Garcia was bamboozled when a movie producer transformed her five-second acting performance into part of a blasphemous video proclamation against the Prophet Mohammed."
While expressing sympathy for the plight of the actress, the justices reasoned that "a weak copyright claim cannot justify censorship in the guise of authorship."
Censoring "Innocence of Muslims" violated the First Amendment right to free speech at a time of intense debate and interest in actions, according to justices.
The film’s producer Mark Basseley Youssef was jailed in November 2012 for breaching the terms of his probation for a previous offense by using a series of pseudonyms including Nakoula Basseley Nakoula and Sam Bacile.