Don’t be evil.

Google don't be evilGoogle is probably one of the most powerful corporations in the world – certainly it has an ability to communicate across the Internet that’s second to none.

Cindy Lee Garcia is not powerful. She’s an American actor, who in the summer of 2011 accepted a small job with a director who said he was making a film called Desert Warrior, “an HD 24P historical Arabian Desert adventure film”. The shooting started in August 2011. The script made no reference to Muhammad or to Islam: the movie should have been about two hours long.

The footage was then edited and overdubbed to create a 14-minute video with an entirely different purpose: to cause offense to Muslims by depicting Muhammed as a stupid, child-molesting thug. It was uploaded on Youtube in 2012, and sparked protests in the Middle East: it was claimed to have been made by Sam Bacile, an Israeli living in the US.

The film that’s thrown the Middle East into turmoil is a 14-minute trailer for the film “Innocence of Muslims” (or the “Life of Muhammed,” or “Muslim Innocence, depending on reports). It depicts Muhammed as pedophile and doofus, and is filled with slapstick insults at Muslims. The movie is almost hilariously amateurish, like a Muslim version of Life of Brian shot by second-year film students. The trailer was posted to Youtube back in July, but was recently translated into Arabic and broadcast on Egyptian TV by a popular Cairo television host, Sheikh Khaled Abdallah, according to the Guardian. Hence the new protests.

The 80 people who’d been involved in what they were told would be the action movie “Desert Warrior” issued a public statement:

The entire cast and crew are extremely upset and feel taken advantage of by the producer. We are 100% not behind this film and were grossly misled about its intent and purpose. We are shocked by the drastic re-writes of the script and lies that were told to all involved. We are deeply saddened by the tragedies that have occurred.

Jeffrey Goldberg, a reporter for The Atlantic, asked a self-described “militant Christian activist” he knew in California about Sam Bacile and the making of this film:

Klein told me that Bacile, the producer of the film, is not Israeli, and most likely not Jewish, as has been reported, and that the name is, in fact, a pseudonym. He said he did not know “Bacile”‘s real name. He said Bacile contacted him because he leads anti-Islam protests outside of mosques and schools, and because, he said, he is a Vietnam veteran and an expert on uncovering al Qaeda cells in California. “After 9/11 I went out to look for terror cells in California and found them, piece of cake. Sam found out about me. The Middle East Christian and Jewish communities trust me.”

He said the man who identified himself as Bacile asked him to help make the anti-Muhammad film. When I asked him to describe Bacile, he said: “I don’t know that much about him. I met him, I spoke to him for an hour. He’s not Israeli, no. I can tell you this for sure, the State of Israel is not involved, Terry Jones (the radical Christian Quran-burning pastor) is not involved. His name is a pseudonym. All these Middle Eastern folks I work with have pseudonyms. I doubt he’s Jewish. I would suspect this is a disinformation campaign.”

There is literally nothing about the making of this movie that isn’t evil. The creator, Mark Bassely Youssef, lied to actors and production crew in order to get them to take part. His intent was to make a movie that would cause mass offence to Muslims because he didn’t like Islam.

Cindy Lee Garcia wanted the movie pulled from Youtube, and she argued that she had a copyright in her performance which was voided if the filmmaker committed fraud. She’s been fighting this case for years, as Google didn’t see that as a valid reason to take the Muslim-baiting film down,

Chief Judge Alex Kozinski of the U.S. Court of Appeals, ruled that:

“Garcia was duped into providing an artistic performance that was used in a way she never could have foreseen.”

and told Google, who has been fighting their right to keep the video on Youtube all the way, to take it down, because:

The filmmaker did exceed the implied license he had to use a cast member’s performance in his film. He convinced her she was acting in a completely different movie, then overdubbed her lines in post-production so that he could stick the footage he’d shot into the anti-Mohammed film instead. Essentially, he obtained her copyright to her performance under false pretenses.

What was Google’s reaction?

They have a standard image which we’re all familiar with, to indicate that a Youtube video has been pulled because of a copyright challenge. This happens all the time when corporations who own video footage issue challenges. But that wasn’t good enough for a situation where a mere actor who had been lied to and defrauded, challenged Google.

They made up a new image, specifically used for this video, which says:

“This video is no longer available due to a copyright claim by an actress over her 5-second appearance in the video. A US court has ordered Google to remove the video. We strongly disagree with this copyright ruling and will fight it.”

“Don’t be evil” has been redefined many times over by Google. (These days, according to their own corporate guidelines, it just means “don’t provide irrelevant advertising”.) But this individual, personalised spite against one person who dared to challenge Google’s power is something new.

Google personal attack

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