The injunction issued by the 9th Circuit Court requiring YouTube to take down the offensive “Innocence of Muslims” video based on copyright law is being challenged. Google — which own YouTube — has filed an emergency motion to stay the enforcement. Eugene Volokh has more…
While you probably weren’t looking, the obnoxious film “Innocence of Muslims”, the film that caused rioting and discord across wide stretches of the Islamic world, has been removed from YouTube.
The removal was not because people complained about it in general, nor because it was insulting. And, sadly, there’s no way simply stupid stuff can be taken down from the Internet.
Its removal resulted from a very particular complaint, made by an actress in the film, who has succeeded in convincing the 9th Circuit of the US Court of Appeal that the presence of the film on YouTube violated her personal copyright in her performance.
Eugene Volokh, writing at his Volokh Conspiracy law-blog, explains…
From today’s Ninth Circuit decision in Garcia v. Google, Inc. (9th Cir. Feb. 26, 2014):
[A] writer and producer, Mark Basseley Youssef — who also goes by the names Nakoula Basseley Nakoula and Sam Bacile — cast [Cindy] Garcia in a minor role. Garcia was given the four pages of the script in which her character appeared and paid approximately $500 for three and a half days of filming. “Desert Warrior” [the title of the film as Youssef described it to Garcia] never materialized. Instead, Garcia’s scene was used in an anti-Islamic film titled “Innocence of Muslims.” Garcia first saw “Innocence of Muslims” after it was uploaded to YouTube.com and she discovered that her brief performance had been partially dubbed over so that she appeared to be asking, “Is your Mohammed a child molester?”
These, of course, are fighting words to many faithful Muslims and, after the film aired on Egyptian television, there were protests that generated worldwide news coverage. An Egyptian cleric issued a fatwa, calling for the killing of everyone involved with the film, and Garcia soon began receiving death threats. She responded by taking a number of security precautions and asking that Google remove the video from YouTube.
Garcia’s theory is that (1) she owns the copyright to her own performance, (2) Youssef never properly acquired the rights to that performance — for instance, because there was no express assignment of rights — and therefore (3) a court should order Google to take down the video that infringes Garcia’s copyright. The Ninth Circuit held for Garcia, by a 2-1 vote. Chief Judge Alex Kozinski wrote the majority opinion, and was joined by Judge Ronald Gould. Judge N.R. “Randy” Smith dissented.
Note, though, that the court’s action is only an injunction. It can be appealed. As Prof. Volokh notes in his article, a Fair Use argument could be made in any suit on the matter. And would likely succeed. That would allow YouTube (or a user) to re-post the video.
UPDATE: Prof. Volokh has a follow-on post noting something unusual about the court order…
The UAE’s Gulf News runs a report on the rise of Prince Mohammad Bin Naif, Minister of the Interior, as a replacement for Prince Bandar Bin Sultan as the point-man for Saudi efforts in Syria. Mohammad, who established the Saudi rehabilitation program for returned/captured jihadists, has been working to separate Syrian rebels battling the Al-Assad regime from the extremists who are also fighting, but for entirely different reasons. The mixing of the two groups has been a serious impediment to US efforts in Syria as the US is simply unwilling to provide support if it ends up in the wrong hands.
The article notes that among those looking at Saudi succession issues, Mohammad is rated as being very much in the game.
Riyadh (Reuters): Saudi Interior Minister Mohammad Bin Nayef, perhaps the most powerful younger prince in the ruling Al Saud family, is shaping Riyadh’s new emphasis on protecting the kingdom from a fresh wave of Islamist militancy inspired by the war in Syria.
The United States pulled out the stops for him when he visited Washington last week to prepare for President Barack Obama’s fence-mending trip to Riyadh next month.
Secretary of State John Kerry, National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Central Intelligence Agency chief John Brennan, Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson, Federal Bureau of Investigation director James Comey and National Security Agency director Keith Alexander all sat down with the 54-year-old, a veteran of Saudi Arabia’s fight against Al Qaida.
Prince Mohammad seems likely to be a central figure in the world’s top oil exporter for decades to come. Many Saudis say he is a strong candidate to become king one day.
“He’s now playing not only the role of Interior Minister, but also that of a senior diplomat and adviser to the king,” said Robert Jordan, US ambassador to Riyadh from 2001-03.
Prince Mohammad, btw, escaped being killed by a suicide bomber back in 2009 who carried his bomb within his own body.
Eugene Volokh, professor of constitutional law at UCLA and among the writers at the eponymous Volokh Conspiracy (now part of the The Washington Post‘s online presence), has an article in the Oklahoma Law Review that looks at how American law and religious law intersect. He finds that US courts are not subject to ‘creeping Shariah’ — a meme that is well-planted within the Islamophobe community, but has also led to several misguided attempts by American states to limit religious freedom.
While church and state are separate within American governance and law, religion and religious issues still play some part in American law. These laws, whether concerning contracts, arbitration, comity, or even exemptions from generally applicable law are of long standing in America. The earliest of religious accommodations dates to not long after the signing of the US Constitution, in fact. The point is that the laws apply equally to all religions, with no special preferences given to Islam.
The law review article is clear and easily read. If the subject matter is of interest, I strongly recommend it to you.
Many people worry about the possible encroachment of Sharia—Islamic law—into the American legal system. Oklahoma voters banned the use of Sharia and other religious law, though the Tenth Circuit struck down the ban precisely because it singled out Sharia by name. Other state legislatures have considered similar bans.
But in many of the instances that critics see as improper “creeping Sharia,” it is longstanding American law that calls for recognizing or implementing an individual’s religious principles, including Islamic principles. American law provides for freedom of contract and disposition of property at death. Muslims (like Christians, Jews, and the irreligious) can therefore write contracts and wills to implement their understanding of their religious obligations. American law provides for arbitration with parties’ consent. Muslims can use this to route their disputes to Muslim tribunals, just like Christians, Jews, and the irreligious often route their disputes to private arbitrators of their choice.
The Economist looks at the economics of shale oil and finds that the US is poised to overtake Saudi Arabia as the world’s swing producer of oil. The only bar at present is an American law that prohibits American oil companies from exporting crude oil.
DENNIS LITHGOW is an oil man, but sees himself as a manufacturer. His factory is a vast expanse of brushland in west Texas. His assembly line is hundreds of brightly painted oil pumps spaced out like a city grid, interspersed with identical clusters of tanks for storage and separation. Through the windscreen of his truck he points out two massive drilling rigs on the horizon and a third about to be erected. Less than 90 days after they punch through the earth, oil will start to flow.
What if they’re dry? “We don’t drill dry holes here,” says Mr Lithgow, an executive for Pioneer Natural Resources, a Texan oil firm. In the conventional oil business, the riskiest thing is finding the stuff. The “tight oil” business, by contrast, is about deposits people have known about for decades but previously could not extract economically.
Pioneer’s ranch sits at the centre of the Permian Basin, a prehistoric sea that, along with Eagle Ford in south Texas and North Dakota’s Bakken, are the biggest sources of tight oil, a broad category for the dense rocks, such as shale, that usually sit beneath the reservoirs that contain conventional oil. Since 2008 tight-oil production in America has soared from 600,000 to 3.5m barrels per day (see chart 1). Thanks to tight oil and natural gas from shale, fossil fuels are contributing ever more to economic growth: 0.3 points last year alone, according to J.P. Morgan, and 0.1 to 0.2 a year to the end of 2020, according to the Peterson Institute, a think-tank. Upscale furniture stores and luxury-car dealerships have sprung up in Midland since the boom began.
The Saudi-US Relations Information Service (SUSRIS) provides that handy scorecard for the major groups now on the US government’s list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations. The groups range from the well known like Al-Qaeda and its various affiliates to old-time groups like the Abu Nidal Organizations whose continued existence is somewhat surprising. The locations of the groups range from the Maghreb, across the Middle East and Turkey, through Afghanistan and Pakistan, and on to Indonesia.
Each group’s citation includes links to the source of information for each group’s inclusion.
… Foreign Terrorist Organizations (FTOs) are foreign organizations that are designated by the Secretary of State in accordance with section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), as amended. FTO designations play a critical role in the fight against terrorism and are an effective means of curtailing support for terrorist activities and pressuring groups to get out of the terrorism business.
Today we take this opportunity to highlight some of the terrorist groups from the Middle East North Africa region subject to the U.S. FTO designation. Many are profiled in a useful resource at the U.S. National Counter Terrorism Center Web site. We have included the guidelines the U.S. Government uses in reaching FTO designations and for dealing with such groups.
Iran considers Saudi Arabia, not Israel, its principal enemy, according to Fred Hof, Special Advisor for Transition in Syria. Al Arabiya TV reports on Hof’s recent testimony before a congressional panel.
This shouldn’t be all that surprising, actually. The issues that divide Iran and Israel are more philosophical than concrete. Iranian relations with Saudi Arabia, however, are competitive (not to say combative) on numerous, very real grounds. Iran’s role in supporting the ‘rejectionist front’ and groups like Hezbollah is actually more a matter of political expediency than a critical issue for national survival. Iran does tend to see its frictions with Saudi Arabia in much more existentialist terms, whether it’s for the ‘leadership of the Muslim community’, or establishing the price of oil, or just regional supremacy.
Former U.S. ambassador Frederic Hof has revealed that Iranian officials, in private meetings, told him that Iran is not in conflict with the United States or Israel but rather believe Saudi Arabia to be the main threat considering its perceived tampering in Syria, Kuwait’s daily al-Rai reported.
The former special advisor for transition in Syria at the U.S. Department of State spoke at a congressional panel discussion this week and shed light on the undisclosed meetings that are frequently held between U.S. and Iranian officials.
According to Hof, one Iranian official told him that “neither the U.S. nor Israel intervened in Syria,” adding that the real problem was Saudi Arabia and to a lesser extent, Turkey.
Hof said that Iran believes Saudi Arabia to be Iran’s real enemy inside and outside Syria, and not Israel.
Reuters reports that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia will face trial for loses and damages resulting from the 9/11 attacks following an appeals court ruling that an earlier ruling by a lower court was based on an error of law. Ruling that the judge in the lower court was mistaken about the law, the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said that Saudi Arabia might not have sovereign immunity in the case, as the lower court had decided. The issue revolves around several technicalities that will either have to be sorted out in a courtroom or settled before trial. Of course, the appeals court’s ruling can also be appealed to the US Supreme Court.
The 2nd Circuit’s decision can be found here.
U.S. court revives 9/11 victims’ case against Saudi Arabia
(Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Thursday revived claims by families of victims of the September 11, 2001, attacks who alleged that Saudi Arabia provided material support to al Qaeda.
Reversing a lower court ruling, the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York said “the interests of justice” justified reviving the claims, in light of a 2011 decision that allowed similar claims to proceed against Afghanistan.
Circuit Judge Chester Straub wrote for a three-judge panel that it would be “especially anomalous” to treat both sets of plaintiffs differently. He returned the case to U.S. District Judge George Daniels in Manhattan for further proceedings.
The litigation was brought on behalf of families of the nearly 3,000 people killed in the September 11 attacks, as well as insurers that covered losses suffered by building owners and businesses.
Saudi Arabia has proposed that the Gulf Cooperation Council move to become a more perfect union. Despite Oman’s reluctance to take that step because it believes that its own multicultural status would be deprecated, the urge is there.
The proposal comes on the heels of — and as a response to — US moves toward calming tensions with Iran. The Gulf States, and particularly Saudi Arabia, believe the US to be naive on the issue, ready to give away security for a few minutes of favorable press coverage.
The smaller states are concerned that simple demographics would make them lesser partners to a dominant Saudi Arabia. And while Gulf Arab cultures are similar, there are extremely important differences that they do not wish to see submerged in a sea of conservatism.
Nor do all Gulf States have the same sort of relationship with Iran. All do have tensions, but some, like Oman and the UAE, have warmer trade and political relations than others.
Unification may be a step that will be taken, but the timing does not look right.
People of the Gulf, unite!
Mohammed Fahad al-Harthi
The Arab world is now open to all options and the accelerating developments entail a myriad of dangers. Today, the Gulf States have an opportunity, coupled with risks. As they say, “during times of crises there are chances for new beginnings.” The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states are facing major challenges that call upon their leaders to realize their responsibilities while taking decisive decision.
In politics, taking decisions proactively is preferable to making them under the exigencies of circumstances and necessity.
Gulf citizens live in enormous wealth, their countries having a huge gross domestic product (GDP) and political stability that makes them, in light of the anarchy that has swept across the region, an oasis of security and stability.
Writing at Harvard University’s “Iran Matters” website, Saudi analyst and government advisor Nawaf Obaid offers his take on the recent deal reached between Iran and the “5+1 group. In sum, while the Kingdom is always interested in international agreements that tend toward peaceful resolution of issues, it is wary about Iran’s expansionist foreign policy and the likelihood of its acquiring nuclear weapons.
The Iran deal: a view from Saudi Arabia
The fundamentals of Saudi foreign policy stem from its role as the cradle of Islam, the world’s central banker of energy and the Middle East’s economic and financial engine. As the birthplace of the Prophet Mohammed (PBUH) and the location of the religion’s two holiest sites, the Saudi Kingdom is in a unique standing vis-a-vis the more than 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide. This situation makes it incumbent on the Kingdom to remain extremely conservative at its core and outlook. This reality is enhanced by the Kingdom’s role as the world’s largest crude exporter. This has made Saudi Arabia the largest economy by far in the Middle East-North Africa region and the world’s third largest holder of foreign exchange reserves and is giving it the firepower to expend formidable financial and economic resources in assisting other nations in dire straits to maintain stability. The Kingdom’s enhanced role has generated an ever expanding foreign policy assertiveness that is being transformed from a primarily reactive based doctrine to a proactive one. The implications are that the Saudis will amalgamate political and financial incentives with an ever-growing military capability to sustain a forceful diplomacy to pursue vital national security imperatives.
Abdulrahman al-Rashed offers commentary on the current idea that Saudi Arabia will obtain nuclear weapons from Pakistan if Iran produces its own.
He notes that Iran cannot claim self-defense as a motive for nuclear weapons acquisition, but Saudi Arabia most certainly can. Iranian weapons directly threaten the Kingdom. Saudi Arabia will either have to obtain its own or have treaties with partners whom it can trust to reply to a nuclear attack on the Kingdom. Given that Saudi Arabia does not trust the US to act in the Saudi interest these days, that strongly implies that Saudi Arabia will acquire its own bombs.
Saudi Arabia’s nuclear bomb
There has been recent talk of Saudi Arabia’s supposed determination to buy a nuclear bomb from Pakistan. Firstly, is this even possible in light of the international agreements signed by both countries forbidding the owner of a nuclear weapon to transfer or sell it? This question is especially pertinent as Saudi Arabia is not allowed to manufacture such a weapon for military purposes. Secondly, would such nuclear weapon add any value to Saudi Arabia’s defense systems?
After buying Chinese missiles and after news of the secret deal was leaked, it was said that Saudi Arabia might use these missiles to carry nuclear warheads. However, in 1988 the kingdom signed a treaty on the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons aimed at limiting the spread of nuclear weapons technology. Saudi Arabia now abides to that treaty, along with 190 other countries. There have always been stories and skeptical media campaigns stating that Saudi Arabia intends to become a nuclear power. Such stories were supported by claims made by an employee who defected from the Saudi embassy in New York. He said that Saudi Arabia is building a nuclear bomb to support Iraq. Before that, a U.S. intelligence analyst had said that Saudi Arabia supported Pakistan’s nuclear project with an investment of $2 billion.
From Foreign Policy magazine, a piece discussing how Saudi Arabia — finding that the US is not a useful partner at the moment — is looking for their own solutions to what they consider serious international problems.
Saudi Arabia’s Shadow War
The Kingdom is turning to Pakistan to train Syria’s rebels. It’s a partnership that once went very wrong in Afghanistan. Will history repeat itself?
BEIRUT — Saudi Arabia, having largely abandoned hope that the United States will spearhead international efforts to topple the Assad regime, is embarking on a major new effort to train Syrian rebel forces. And according to three sources with knowledge of the program, Riyadh has enlisted the help of Pakistani instructors to do it.
Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, along with the CIA, also supported the Afghan rebels against the Soviet-backed government during the 1980s. That collaboration contains a cautionary note for the current day: The fractured Afghan rebels were unable to govern after the old regime fell, paving the way for chaos and the rise of the Taliban. Some of the insurgents, meanwhile, transformed into al Qaeda and eventually turned their weapons against their former patrons.
While the risk of blowback has been discussed in Riyadh, Saudis with knowledge of the training program describe it as an antidote to extremism, not a potential cause of it. They have described the kingdom’s effort as having two goals — toppling the Assad regime, and weakening al Qaeda-linked groups in the country. Prince Turki, the former Saudi intelligence chief and envoy to Washington, said in a recent interview that the mainstream opposition must be strengthened so that it could protect itself “these extremists who are coming from all over the place” to impose their own ideologies on Syria.