In 2014 leaked documents from the Sony hack revealed that the MPAA helped Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood to revive SOPA-like censorship efforts in the United States.
In a retaliatory move Google sued the Attorney General, hoping to find out more about the secret plan. The company also demanded internal communication from the MPAA and its lawfirm Jenner & Block, as well as several movie studios.
More recently Google requested a deposition of MPAA lead counsel Steve Fabrizio, who could possibly provide additional details on the case. These type of interrogations are part of the discovery process, but the MPAA argued that this would violate its First Amendment rights.
According to the MPAA, its involvement with the Attorney General is protected by the First Amendment privilege, which protects associational activity.
However, in a response submitted to a federal court in Mississippi this week, Google strongly disagrees.
“The MPAA’s attempt to invoke the First Amendment privilege to hide its efforts to suborn a public official to attack Google is wholly disingenuous and misunderstands the nature of the privilege itself,” Google writes.
Google points out that there’s is no chilling effect on speech in this case, as the MPAA’s lobbying efforts and anti-piracy focus are already widely known. In addition, they point out that the First Amendment privilege is limited and not applicable in this case.
Instead, the search giant informs the court that the Hollywood group is merely trying to keep its lobbying efforts out of the public eye in order to avoid scrutiny or embarrassment.
“It is simply not enough for the MPAA to claim that its associational rights would be ‘chilled’ because the MPAA would prefer that its covert lobbying efforts remain secret so that it can avoid scrutiny or embarrassment,” Google writes.
“It must actually show consequences which objectively suggest an impact on, or ‘chilling’ of, the members’ associational rights,” they add.
Another crucial point raised by Google is that the First Amendment privilege doesn’t protect lobbying, something the MPAA’s anti-piracy efforts would certainly fall under.
Turning the tables, the search engine argues that it’s the MPAA who are helping the Attorney General to breach Google’s First Amendment rights.
“There is something deeply troubling in the MPAA claiming the First Amendment privilege to shield its role in lobbying Attorney General Hood to threaten Google’s First Amendment rights.
“The MPAA should not be permitted to spend years lobbying a public official to suppress the speech of a business rival and then turn around and hide behind the very rights it was trying to squelch,” Google adds.
Google therefore asks the court to deny the MPAA’s motion to quash and order Mr. Fabrizio to appear at a deposition so he can be heard.