Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood wants a federal appellate court to pave the way for him to resume investigating Google for its role in allegedly facilitating online piracy.
Hood, the top law enforcement official in Mississippi, argues in papers filed late Monday that U.S. District Court Judge Henry Wingate prematurely blocked an investigation into Google's practices.
“If the district court’s opinion is allowed to stand, it no doubt will serve to mute agency investigations across the state, and across the nation,” Hood says in papers filed with the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals. “In the future, parties will not ... cooperate in any state investigation, or even challenge the subpoena in state court, as required, when the state procedures so easily may be hijacked.”
Hood's appeal marks the latest development in a 2-year-old battle between his office and Google over online piracy. Until last December, the fight between the attorney general and search company took place largely behind the scenes.
Late last year, the battle became public, thanks to the Sony hack: Documents leaked by the hackers revealed “Project Goliath” -- a secret Hollywood-backed initiative to enlist attorneys general to target Google for allegedly facilitating copyright infringement.
Days later, Google sought a preliminary injunction banning Hood from attempting to enforce a subpoena for “millions” of documents relating to Web sites indexed in Google's search results.
Wingate sided with Google, ruling that the company's decisions about what to publish online were constitutionally protected, and that Hood's attempt to interfere with that judgment by threatening legal action “would likely produce a chilling effect on Google’s protected speech.”
The judge also said Hood can't target Google for linking to sites that allegedly infringe copyright, because state attorneys general lack jurisdiction over copyright infringement.
Hood is now appealing that order. Among other arguments, he says that Google “hijacked” the normal investigative process by going to federal court before any orders were issued against the company.
“Google preferred not to respond in full to the subpoena issued to it, and it preferred not to honor state law or avail itself to the channels set forth under state law to quash or narrow the subpoena,” Hood argues. “It instead attempted an end-run to federal court to get a preliminary injunction. Not only did the district court acquiesce, but the court issued a 'blunderbuss' injunction against future action by the Attorney General.”
Google is expected to respond to Hood's arguments next month.