Google Attacked by MPAA, Web War Ensues

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In a posting made on the company’s Public Policy Blog, Google Senior Vice President Kent Walker charged the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) with leading “a secret, coordinated campaign to revive the failed SOPA legislation” last Thursday. The post came after the preeminent internet giant had discovered that within documents leaked by the North Korean hack of Sony Pictures were memorandums detailing a plan called Project Goliath, wherein the MPAA sought to lobby attorneys general to sue Google over online piracy claims, among other things.

Walker recalled in his post that SOPA had been prevented from passing the legislature three years ago by a broad coalition of support, which managed to generate enough public interest for some 8 million phone calls, 4 million emails, and 10 million petition signatures. Apparently many online anti-censorship, tech industry and free speech groups agreed that the steps taken by the MPAA looked like an attempt to facilitate the return of SOPA, as the old alliance largely re-formed when 13 of them signed on to a letter addressed to Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood.

The letter accused Attorney General Hood of colluding with the MPAA against Google, and attempting to force internet service providers to “remove content from the Internet with little, if any, meaningful due process.” A major piece of evidence for these claims was a screen shot that appeared in Walker’s post on the Google Public Policy blog, attributed to the New York Times, purporting to show that the .docx properties of a formal letter which the company received from Attorney General Hood indicated that the letter had been drafted by Jenner & Block Limited Liability Partnership (LLP), a law firm retained by the MPAA.

Hood had served Google with a subpoena 79 pages long, covering a range of topics that the company contends do not fall within the jurisdiction of the Mississippi attorney general’s office, although they did not specifically state the exact topics. However, the blog post was updated Dec. 19, to reflect that Google had filed a brief to dismiss the subpoena, along with a request that the MPAA and Attorney General Hood be required to preserve all related documents. In a statement provided in their filing, the tech giant claimed that compliance with the subpoena they received would have required the production of likely millions of individual documents. Later the same day, Attorney General Hood called for a “time out,” indicating that he wanted to re-enter negotiations with Google to settle issues out of court.

In further display of the animosity permeating the conflict, The Verge had reported earlier in the month that Sony Pictures’ leaked emails also appeared to show that the MPAA had circulated another New York Times article, detailing alleged corruption in the increasing trend of lobbying state attorneys general, as a sort of how-to guide for lobbying attorneys general. Recipients included higher-ups at Paramount, Warner Brothers, Fox, Comcast, and the Recording Industry Artists Association. For their part, the MPAA insists that Google uses free speech activism as a cover to distract from the company’s profiting off of stolen intellectual property via piracy. Google had taken steps through summer and autumn to re-work their search ranking algorithm to suppress sites with a history of complaints regarding hosting unlicensed content.

By Brian Whittemore


Google Public Policy Blog

The Verge

New York Times

Photo Courtesy of Volker Neumann – flickr License