Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood must provide Google with a host of documents, including correspondence sent by representatives of the entertainment industry, a federal judge has ruled.
U.S. District Court Judge Henry Wingate in Mississippi gave Hood until Wednesday to turn over a series of November 2013 emails between his office and Motion Picture Association of America Senior Vice President Vans Stevenson.
Stevenson reportedly worked with Hood and other law enforcement officials to target Google for its perceived role in enabling online piracy. Wingate also directed Hood to provide Google with drafts of subpoenas that were provided to Hood by entertainment industry executives, and correspondence between Hood and other attorneys general in August of 2014.
Wingate's order, issued late last week, marks the latest development in a high-profile legal battle between Google and Hood that began in December, when Google sought an injunction prohibiting Hood from continuing to threaten to prosecute the company.
Google said in its court papers that Hood spent much of the last two years pressuring the company to “remove third-party content he disfavors” from both the search results and YouTube. As part of that campaign, he allegedly subpoenaed “millions” of documents from Google and threatened to sue the company if it didn't comply.
Google went to court just days after documents leaked in the Sony hack revealed “Project Goliath” -- a Hollywood-backed initiative that reportedly involves enlisting state law enforcement officials in the entertainment industry's fight against online copyright infringement. The project's goal appears to be similar to that of the failed Stop Online Piracy Act, which would have enabled entertainment companies to more easily obtain court orders requiring Google (and other search engines) to stop displaying links to “rogue sites” in the search results.
The MPAA reportedly budgeted $500,000 a year toward hiring the law firm Jenner & Block, which offered legal assistance to state attorneys general who targeted Google, including Hood.
In March, Wingate granted Google's request by prohibiting Hood from attempting to enforce his subpoena for at least four months. In the meantime, Wingate allowed both sides to obtain evidence from each other relevant to the Google's request for an injunction.
Wingate said in his ruling that Google had shown a “substantial likelihood” that its free speech rights were violated by Hood. He wrote that Google's decisions about what to publish online were constitutionally protected, and that interfering with that judgment by threatening legal action “would likely produce a chilling effect on Google’s protected speech, thereby violating Google’s First Amendment rights.”
Wingate also wrote that Hood lacks authority to target Google for linking to sites that allegedly infringe copyright, because state attorneys general don't have jurisdiction over copyright infringement. Hood is appealing that decision.