Google Vs. MPAA: Revelations From the Sony Pictures ‘Hack’


In the backdrop of the geopolitical fiasco seeded by North Korea’s likely hacking of Sony Pictures, a second battle is being fought. These following revelations largely came to light in the form of leaked insider memos between Sony Pictures and The Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA). The MPAA has long seethed over the existence of online piracy, and held Google to blame for indexing sites that host pirated content. This much has been no secret, and Google has appeared, by all indications, take their role of an internet near-monopoly with a commendable gravity.

A major reason for continuing to index the contentious sites is that Google has a track record of exceeding minimum ethics and working to fix problems on their own volition. For them, a witch hunt to sever indexing sites accused of hosting pirated content is too close to trampling free speech.Google had come out against the failed Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the past, and their attempted sweat-equity resolution was likely intended to offer a consolation alternative. Their alternative: donating their technical resources to create a new algorithm that suppresses search result positions based on a site’s accumulated DMCA takedown notices. The approach could be paraphrased as “Punish the Guilty.”

In a move apparently intended as a sign of respect, Google reached out to current MPAA and former U.S. Senate Banking Committee Chairman, Chris Dodd. The communication was an email to inform the MPAA of its’ algorithm, which Google had deployed in August and was planning to publicly announce the next day. The MPAA responded to the communique with the following statement in a press release: “Everyone shares a responsibility to help curb unlawful conduct online, and we are glad to see Google acknowledging its role in facilitating access to stolen content via search.”

This reaction to their intended olive branch likely enraged Google brass, whose response was to announce the severing of diplomatic relations with MPAA, announcing that any further communication with motion picture studios would have to come first-hand. Considering that the MPAA, as evidenced by Chris Dodd’s leadership, is stacked with former Washington kingmakers and malfeascant players in the past recession that shook not only American, but also global finances, the response to Google’s defiance has not gone unpunished. In a round-about way, North Korea’s alleged hack has inadvertently helped expose a coup against the First Amendment, perpetrated in the shadows by an unholy alliance between Hollywood and Washington. While the leaked memos have shown that the MPAA has been working to resurrect the twisted flesh of SOPA, they have also apparently been marshaling attorneys general on the state level to wage legal warfare against Google.

In Google’s Public Policy Blog, Senior Vice President and General Counsel Kent Walker released a lengthy statement detailing the companies’ position two days ago which included the following: “We are deeply concerned about recent reports that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) led a secret, coordinated campaign to revive the failed SOPA legislation through other means, and helped manufacture legal arguments in connection with an investigation by Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood.”

A story in The New York Times elucidates the emerging tactic of lobbying attorneys general. As they put it, attorneys general are the emerging target because many of the rules and regulations set in place to hamper the efficacy of lobbying do not apply at the prosecutorial level. It’s open season for grift and graft in the offices closest to the courts.

This is the real deal, guys. If you’re reading this post, you are a citizen of the internet and this pertains to your personal freedoms. In a country that supposes itself to be based on democratic principles, the people have spoken in regards to SOPA. The answer has been a group of insiders actively seeking to thwart the will of the public, to their detriment. This is a story that isn’t getting the attention it deserves, and if there were ever an issue to signal boost, let it be one that supports a good deed being punished and whose reverberations stand to effect the internet as we know it. Google could have easily bowed to pressure to censor its’ content, let’s not deny them our support for taking a difficult and principled stand. Links under the byline, I recommend reading up.

Blog by Brian Whittemore


The New York Times

The Register

Google Public Policy Blog

Photo courtesy of ironically, the MPAA via Wikimedia Commons

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