Late last year leaked documents from the Sony hack revealed that the MPAA helped Mississippi State Attorney General Hood to revive SOPA-esque censorship efforts in the United States.
In a retaliatory move Google sued the Attorney General, hoping to find out more about the secret effort. As part of these proceedings Google also demanded internal communication from the MPAA, but the Hollywood group has been hesitant to share these details.
After several subpoenas remained largely unanswered Google took the MPAA to court earlier this month. The search giant asked a Columbia federal court to ensure that the MPAA and its law firm Jenner & Block hands over the requested documents.
The MPAA and its law firm responded to the complaint this week, stressing that Google’s demands are overbroad. They reject the argument that internal discussions or communications with its members and law firm will reveal Attorney General Hood’s intent, not least due to the Attorney General not being part of these conversations himself.
According to the Hollywood group, Google’s broad demands are part of a public relations war against the MPAA, one in which Google inaccurately positions itself as the victim.
“Google portrays itself as the innocent victim of malicious efforts to abridge its First Amendment rights. In reality, Google is far from innocent,” the MPAA informs the federal court (pdf).
The MPAA notes that Google is knowingly facilitating and profiting from distributing “illegal” content, including pirated material.
“Google facilitates, and profits from, the distribution of third-party content that even Google concedes is ‘objectionable.’ ‘Objectionable’ is Google’s euphemism for ‘illegal’,” the MPAA writes.
The opposition brief states that for a variety of reasons the subpoenaed documents are irrelevant to the original lawsuit and are far too broad in scope. The MPAA’s initial searches revealed that 100,000 documents would likely require review, many of which it believes are protected by attorney-client privilege.
The MPAA says that Google is trying to leverage the information revealed in the Sony hack to expose the MPAA’s broader anti-piracy strategies in public, and that this is all part of an ongoing PR war.
“The purpose of these Subpoenas is to gather information — beyond the information that was already stolen via the Sony hack on which it relies — on the MPAA’s strategies to protect its members’ copyrighted material and address violations of law on the Internet affecting its members’ copyrights and the rights of others,” they write.
“Moreover, Google openly admits that it opposes any order to keep these discovery materials in confidence, revealing its goal to disseminate these documents publicly as part of its ongoing public relations war.”
Positioning itself as the victim, the MPAA goes on to slam Google for going after anyone who “dares” to expose the search engine’s alleged facilitation of piracy and other unlawful acts.
“…the most fundamental purpose of these Subpoenas is to send a message to anyone who dares to seek government redress for Google’s facilitation of unlawful conduct: If you and your attorneys exercise their First Amendment right to seek redress from a government official, Google will come after you.”
In conclusion, the MPAA and its law firm ask the court to reject Google’s broad demands and stop the “abuse” of the litigation process.
It’s now up to the judge to decide how to proceed, but based on the language used, the stakes at hand and the parties involved, this dispute isn’t going to blow over anytime soon. It’s more likely to blow up instead.