Google Strikes Back After MPAA Objects To Hotfile Intervention

Google recently filed an amicus brief in which it suggested that the movie companies of the MPAA were misleading the court in their case against file-hosting service Hotfile. In response the MPAA objected to Google's intervention with claims that the search giant is only interested in influencing the law in its own favor. Now Google is striking back stating that the welfare of legitimate businesses and the climate of free expression online is at stake.

The heat in the year-long copyright infringement lawsuit between the MPAA and Hotfile stepped up a level recently after Google filed an amicus brief in response to the studios’ request for summary judgment against the file-hoster.

Worried that a negative judgment might have lasting effects for sites such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and Wikipedia, Google explained the the studios are wrong when they say that Hotfile doesn’t deserve protection under the safe harbors of the DMCA.

“Without the protections afforded by the safe harbors, those services might have been forced to fundamentally alter their operations or might never have launched in the first place,” Google wrote in its brief.

But the MPAA objected to the search engine’s intervention, describing its brief as a “systematic effort by Google, itself a defendant in ongoing copyright infringement cases, to influence the development of the law to Google’s own advantage.”

“Although Google purports not to take a position regarding summary judgment here, Google unmistakably seeks a ruling against Plaintiffs. Google’s motion should be denied,” the studios conclude.

Now Google has responded and roundly rejects the MPAA’s opposition.

The search engine denies that it wants the court to rule one way or the other, but is instead trying to highlight the importance of the DMCA’s safe harbors “and the broad consensus that has developed among courts called upon to apply those provisions.”

Google says that its intention for filing the amicus brief is not to directly assist Hotfile or indeed further its own interests, but to help highlight the importance of the court’s decision on the wider Internet.

“Google’s aim in seeking to participate in this case is to underscore the importance of the Court’s decision to a wide array of legitimate and socially beneficial Internet services, and to the overall climate of free expression online,” Google’s counsel writes.

Google says that its filing is “classic amicus curae” – assisting in a case of general public interest, supplementing the efforts of counsel, and drawing the court’s attention to law that escaped consideration. It adds pointedly that the MPAA has not attempted to use relevant DMCA case law to have the brief dismissed.

“It is telling in that regard that Plaintiffs’ Opposition does nothing to refute the actual legal and policy arguments in Google’s proposed brief,” Google notes. “Rather than oppose Google’s arguments on the merits, Plaintiffs try to silence Google.”

It will be interesting to see the outcome of the conflict here between the MPAA and Google and whether it remains localized in the Hotfile court room or spill over to other affairs. While Google’s points regarding the effects of this case on the wider Internet are noble, it seems unlikely that they aren’t considering their own interests too. Nevertheless, that doesn’t make their stance any less valid.

The IFPI also took up an aggressive stance (1,2) against Google recently but it’s difficult to see how rightsholder conflict with the world’s most influential Internet company will yield the results they’re looking for.

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