Google Ends Lawsuit Against Mississippi AG Over Piracy Practices

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Google has dropped its lawsuit against Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood. The search giant had been attempting to defend itself against an investigation into its anti-piracy practices but according to court papers filed Wednesday, some kind of collaboration is now on the agenda.

googlepopFor the past several years, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has been pressuring Google to stop copyright infringing content and prescription medicines being made available in search results.

In November 2014, Hood issued an administrative subpoena which aimed to reveal inside information detailing Google’s efforts to curtail the appearance of illegal content in listings.

A month later and on the back of secrets revealed as part of the Sony email leaks, Google sued Hood’s office, claiming that the Attorney General was working with groups including the MPAA to undermine its business.

Indeed, evidence produced in court filings showed Hood’s office being coached by lawyers at the MPAA, who in their “cozy relationship” even went as far as helping with the drafting of letters aimed at pressuring Google over piracy.

In March 2015, a judge in the Southern District of Mississippi granted an injunction to stop Hood’s investigation into Google, finding that “interference with Google’s judgment…would likely produce a chilling effect on Google’s protected speech.” Hood was also ordered not to bring any criminal or civil charges against the company.

However, in a blow to Google, just over a year later the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals vacated the ruling, noting that the federal judge’s decision to issue a preliminary injunction was made in error (pdf).

While this meant that Hood was free to pursue the administrative subpoena, shortly after the Court of Appeals decision he sent a letter to the court withdrawing it. However, Hood wasn’t quite done, noting that Google still needed to preserve documents demanded under the subpoena, just in case they were needed in future.

In response, Google demanded a rehearing before the Fifth Circuit panel. That was denied but the panel issued a slightly modified opinion which allowed Google to pursue a court ruling declaring that it can not be held liable for content posted by third parties.

But now, however, it appears that from conflict, some kind of peace has broken out. According to a court filing Wednesday, Google has backed down from its efforts to block Hood from investigating its copyright infringement and illegal content practices.

“It is hereby stipulated and agreed, by and between the parties to the above captioned action, by their undersigned counsel, that…….all of the claims that have been asserted in this action are hereby dismissed without costs to any party,” the filing reads (pdf).

The document, signed by lawyers representing both Google and Hood’s office, is short on detail and offers no clear explanation as to why Google decided to discontinue its complaint. However, it does suggest that some kind of agreement has been reached over the core issues at the heart of the dispute.

“[T]he Attorney General and Google endeavor to collaborate in addressing the harmful consequences of unlawful and/or dangerous online content,” the document reads.

While Google will be pleased with the outcome, the case was seen by some as a golden opportunity to see just how far Hood and the MPAA had collaborated on ‘Project Goliath‘. Now that an agreement of sorts has been reached, future revelations seem much less likely.


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