Google is taking legal action against the Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, alleging he exceeded his authority in suing the ad giant over piracy – and taking his cues from the Motion Picture Ass. of America.
In October 2013, Hood filed a subpoena against Google, accusing the web ad giant of encouraging online piracy, illegal drug sales, and the distribution of child abuse images via its search engine. Those legal proceedings are continuing, but in light of internal Sony Pictures emails released by hackers, Google has now countersued.
Last week, leaked memos between Sony's studio execs and the MPAA revealed how the industry pressure group had managed to get right under Google's skin.
The MPAA was publicly snarky about Google's voluntary efforts to sink websites accused of copyright infringement way down its web search results – sites that received a lot of DMCA takedowns were punished by burying them beyond the second page of results. Behind the scenes, Google bosses were furious that the MPAA had crowed this move was a victory for the media, as if the web giant had been forced to change its search algorithms.
In one email, the MPAA said this public reaction was done to give more weight to Hood's legal action against Google.
Google's general counsel Kent Walker said this leaked email, and others like it, show how closely the Mississippi Attorney General's office was working with the MPAA. In particular, a letter sent by Hood to pressure Google turned out to have been almost entirely written by Jenner & Block, the MPAA's chief legal team.
"We are deeply concerned about recent reports that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) led a secret, coordinated campaign to revive the failed SOPA legislation through other means, and helped manufacture legal arguments in connection with an investigation by Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood," Walker said.
"We regret having to take this matter to court, and we are doing so only after years of efforts to explain both the merits of our position and the extensive steps we've taken on our platforms."
Google's chief complaint is that Hood exceeded his authority in bringing the lawsuit in the first place, although the Sony emails have cast Hood's involvement with the MPAA into sharp focus. In a rebuttal statement from Hood, the AG insists his legal case is all about protecting children and stopping drug trafficking, and accuses Google of obfuscation.
"After the Sony hack, Google's General Counsel Kent Walker began blogging and feeding the media a salacious Hollywood tale," Hood said in a statement [PDF].
"Now, feeling emboldened with its billions of dollars, media prowess and political power, some of its more excitable people have sued trying to stop the State of Mississippi for daring to ask some questions."
Hood said that he was "calling a time out, so that cooler heads may prevail," and will be seeking a conference with Google's legal team to resolve the situation. ®