Google has blasted Hollywood's biggest trade association for being in cahoots with a state attorney general to bring back an old law that promotes censorship of the Internet.
In a blog post, Google senior vice president and general counsel Kent Walker said the company is "deeply concerned" about the Motion Picture Association of America's (MPAA) efforts to collude with the Mississippi state attorney general to revive the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), which was hugely unpopular with most Internet companies, big and small, and the general public.
"While of course we have serious legal concerns about all of this, one disappointing part of this story is what this all means for the MPAA itself, an organization founded in part 'to promote and defend the First Amendment and artists' right to free expression,'" Walker said. "Why, then, is it trying to secretly censor the Internet?"
Google's criticism stems from documents unearthed by The Verge and the Huffington Post from the 250 GB worth of internal Sony Pictures documents leaked by hackers from Guardians of Peace.
Email correspondences between Sony general counsel Leah Weil and MPAA global general counsel Steven Fabrizio reveal how the trade group called together six Hollywood studios for a "get tough strategy" against Goliath, a codename largely believed to stand for Google.
The Verge says the MPAA has budgeted half a million dollars from the studios and another $1.17 million from the MPAA to fund a new campaign against Google, one of the biggest and most vocal opponents of SOPA. Aside from Sony Pictures, the six studios also included Warner Bros., Walt Disney, 21st Century Fox, NBC Universal and Paramount Pictures.
"The MPAA conspired to achieve SOPA's goals through non-legislative means," Walker said.
Google also slammed Mississippi attorney general Jim Hood, a known SOPA supporter, for working with the MPAA more than he actually lets on. A lengthy letter sent to Google by Hood in November accused the search company of numerous offenses "over which he lacks jurisdiction," Google said.
The Verge reports that the MPAA knew about the subpoena's existence even before it was sent to Google. In fact, the letter, which says "overwhelming evidence shows that Google facilitates and profits from numerous illegal online activities ranging from piracy to illegal drug sales and human trafficking," has been written in large part by an attorney for Jenner & Block, the MPAA's long-time law firm.
The New York Times posted the letter online, revealing how it has been minimally edited by Hood before it was sent to Google.
The Verge also reveals emails circulating among MPAA members where MPAA counsel Vans Stevenson discussed how they can support Hood in an upcoming meeting between Google and Hood and other attorneys general.
"[Attorney] General Hood called me last night and asked that we provide fresh examples for his planned live 'search' demonstration of illegal site activity, including the availability of motion pictures only in theatrical release, which we are working on with our [outside counsel] Tom Perrelli's team," Stevenson said.
An email from Perrelli forwarded to the studios by Stevenson a few days after shows how Perrelli and his team coached Hood and other attorneys general what to say during the Google meeting. The email says the attorneys general "are going to start the meeting by saying that they are frustrated that Google has not acted." It also says that Perrelli spent more time with Hood after the meeting and "got him focused on the key issues and the asks."
"He really does care a great deal about piracy -- and he doesn't get sidetracked by some of the things that Microsoft prefers," Perrelli said. "He wants Google to delist pirate sites and he is going to ask them to do that tomorrow."
Hood, however, says he has nothing to hide and points the finger back at Google for "trying to create a media issue out of thin air." He also says he was "not aware" of Jenner & Block's relationship with the MPAA and would not ask for counsel from Stevenson since he was not an attorney.
"As I said several times, we frequently ask the companies who report intellectual property theft to assist our office in identifying counterfeit items and evidence of how their property is being stolen," Hood said.
On May 8, an email from Fabrizio said the campaign had grown so advanced that it required additional resources. The email also noted that "there is only so far we can get with the AGs unless we develop better evidence and intelligence against Goliath." Other emails contemplated various other means to bring down Goliath, including lobbying for attorneys general to demand to investigate Google and identifying the states most conducive to litigation.
"When wrongdoing is taking place online, we work with and support appropriate law enforcement officials, including the attorneys general, as do many other industries," said Kate Bedingfield, spokesperson for the MPAA.