Google in tussle with state attorney general after Sony leaks

Google accuses Mississippi official of working with the movie industry to attack it

The recent data breach at Sony Pictures Entertainment has prompted a war of words between Google and the U.S movie industry, with the Internet giant accusing a state attorney general of collaborating with movie studios in a copyright enforcement campaign against it.

The dispute has spilled over into the U.S. court system. On Monday, Judge Henry Wingate of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi gave Google an additional two months to respond to a 79-page subpoena filed in October by Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, according to an Associated Press report. Hood had originally given Google until Jan. 5 to respond.

Google on Friday asked the court to throw out the subpoena, days after the company accused Hood of using Motion Picture Association of America lawyers to draft a letter accusing Google of profiting from online piracy and illegal drug sales.

The movie studios have long accused Google of not doing enough to stop online distribution of pirated films. But the latest tiff started after emails released by Sony hackers showed the MPAA, Sony and five other large movie studios working together to attack a company code-named Goliath, widely believed to be Google.

The multi-year campaign by the studios would "rebut Goliath's public advocacy" and "amplify negative Goliath news," the Verge reported in mid-December. The campaign included an effort to work with state attorneys general and major ISPs to control the flow of data online, the Verge reported.

News reports about the MPAA's Goliath campaign prompted Google general counsel Kent Walker, in a blog post last Thursday, to accuse the MPAA and Hood of trying to revive the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act [SOPA], the antipiracy bill killed in the U.S. Congress in early 2012 after massive online protests.

In the Friday filing asking the Mississippi court to kill Hood's subpoena, Google's lawyers argue that Hood's investigation of Google is trumped by federal laws, including legal protections in the Communications Decency Act for Web-based services that publish third-party content.

"For the last 18 months, the Mississippi attorney general has threatened to prosecute, sue or investigate Google unless it agrees to block from its search engine, YouTube video-sharing site, and advertising systems third-party content ... that the attorney general deems objectionable," Google's lawyers wrote. "When Google did not agree to his demands, the attorney general retaliated, issuing an enormously burdensome subpoena and asserting he now has 'reasonable grounds to believe' that Google has engaged in 'deceptive' or 'unfair' trade practice."

A spokeswoman for Hood didn't respond to a request for comment on the Google court filing, but Hood on Friday reportedly called for a "time out" in his dispute with Google.

The MPAA, however, has not backed down. "Google's effort to position itself as a defender of free speech is shameful," MPAA spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield said by email. "Freedom of speech should never be used as a shield for unlawful activities and the internet is not a license to steal."

Google's blog post last week was a "transparent attempt to deflect focus from its own conduct and to shift attention from legitimate and important ongoing investigations by state attorneys general into the role of Google search in enabling and facilitating illegal conduct," she added.

Bedingfield, responding to the accusations that MPAA lawyers have assisted Hood's investigation, pointed to a Public Citizen blog post defending the practice of state attorneys general getting assistance from outside lawyers.

"Hiring outside counsel to do consumer protection work that many AG offices are understaffed to handle expands the enforcement power of those offices," wrote Scott Michelman of Public Citizen's Litigation Group. "The state can better enforce its laws, protect its citizens, and potentially reap financial benefits by recovering money it wouldn't have otherwise."

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags copyrightinternetGooglelegalsearch enginesintellectual propertyMotion Picture Association of AmericaSony Pictures Entertainmentkent walkerPublic CitizenKate BedingfieldJim HoodHenry WingateScott MichelmanU.S. District Court for the Southern District of Mississippi

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Bang and Olufsen Beosound Stage - Dolby Atmos Soundbar

Learn more >

Toys for Boys

Nakamichi Delta 100 3-Way Hi Fi Speaker System

Learn more >

ASUS ROG, ACRONYM partner for Special Edition Zephyrus G14

Learn more >

Sony WF-1000XM3 Wireless Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

Family Friendly

Mario Kart Live: Home Circuit for Nintendo Switch

Learn more >

Philips Sonicare Diamond Clean 9000 Toothbrush

Learn more >

Stocking Stuffer

Teac 7 inch Swivel Screen Portable DVD Player

Learn more >

SunnyBunny Snowflakes 20 LED Solar Powered Fairy String

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?