‘‘This can be a challenge because what’s OK in one country can be offensive elsewhere,’’ the company said in a statement.
That’s precisely the point about the First Amendment, Armour said.
‘‘The reason it is a constitutionally protected interest is precisely because it may prove unpopular,’’ he said. ‘‘Words and images don’t just convey information, they are attached to consequences. That’s when we really have to ask ourselves, ‘What price are we willing to pay for that First Amendment interest?’ And these are the times that really test our convictions.’’
In 1975, former CIA agent Philip Agee published a book detailing agency operations and disclosing the names of a number of CIA agents working undercover overseas, Rosenthal said. Even in that instance, the U.S. government didn’t press criminal charges but instead revoked Agee’s passport and sued him for the book’s profits.
‘‘It’s not clear that there is, on the books today, a law that makes what (Nakoula) did a crime,’’ Rosenthal said. ‘‘This is an extremely difficult problem.’’
Indeed, federal officials have said they are looking at Nakoula only in the context of whether he violated his probation for the fraud conviction. Under terms of his sentence, he was banned from using computers or the Internet as part of his sentence.
The probation issue ‘‘gives the government a relatively low visibility way of prosecuting him but not technically for what he said and how inflammatory it was,’’ Armour said. ‘‘It may be a way of splitting the baby.’’
Associated Press writer Brian Murphy in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, contributed to this report.