In a blog post published yesterday, Google accuses Hollywood of trying to “censor the internet.” Again.
The web giant claims the Motion Picture Association of America (MPPA) has led a renewed campaign to reignite 2011’s Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) legislation, which would have allowed the US government and private corporations to create a “blacklist bill” of censored sites.
The legislation was well-intentioned — it was designed to prevent piracy and copyright infringement — but Business Insider’s Alyson Shontell noted that it did so in “a n overly-aggressive, innovation-endangering way.”
The battle of internet censorship has been going on for some time. Many feel it would corrupt the very nature of the world’s digital resource. Three years ago, millions of Americans helped stop SOPA from being passed. Around 115,000 websites opposed the bill and it failed to go through. More than 10,000,000 people signed a petition against it.
Now, the proposal of censorship is back in the spotlight. Google’s Senior Vice President and General Counsel Kent Walker writes: “We are deeply concerned about recent reports that the MPAA led a secret, coordinated campaign to revive the failed SOPA legislation through other means and helped to manufacture legal arguments in connection with an investigation by Mississippi State Attorney General Jim Hood.”
According to the Verge, documents leaked in the ongoing Sony hack by suspected terrorists in North Korea reveals media companies have been once again plotting to pass “harsh anti-piracy measures.”
On Dec. 12, the Verge also reported that leaked emails show major movie companies are working together with the MPAA on a project named to stop a company known as “Goliath.” It’s thought that “Goliath” refers to Google, which from Hollywood’s viewpoint is enabling piracy online.
Google previously tweaked its search engine algorithm to make finding illegal copies more difficult, but it appears that’s not enough to satisfy Hollywood. It all boils down to the argument that Google should entirely stop people being able to “search” for pirated material in the first place.
But it appears the MPAA is back with a new plan. The Verge reports the MPAA and six other studios have recently joined together to conspire to “secretly revive SOPA.”In dozens of leaked emails, lawyers from the MPAA and its counterparts call it their “most powerful and politically relevant adversary in the fight against online piracy.”
Walker says the MPPA has “pointed its guns at Google.” It notes movie studios even factored in £500,000 a year to provide legal support. There are also claims the MPAA did the “legal legwork” for Hood, a self-confessed SOPA backer. The New York Times previously highlighted a letter signed by the Attorney General that was drafted at the MPAA’s law firm, Jenner & Block.
Google finishes with a bold, detailed statement on the matter:
Even though Google takes industry-leading measures in dealing with problematic content on our services, Attorney General Hood proceeded to send Google a sweeping 79-page subpoena, covering a variety of topics over which he lacks jurisdiction.The Verge reported that the MPAA and its members discussed such subpoenas and certainly knew about this subpoena’s existence before it was even sent to Google.
Attorney General Hood told the Huffington Post earlier this week that the MPAA “has no major influence on my decision-making,” and that he “has never asked [the] MPAA a legal question” and “isn’t sure which lawyers they employ.” And yet today the Huffington Post and the Verge revealed that Attorney General Hood had numerous conversations with both MPAA staff and Jenner & Block attorneys about this matter.
While we of course have serious legal concerns about all of this, one disappointing part of this story is what this all means for the MPAA itself, an organisation founded in part “to promote and defend the First Amendment and artists’ right to free expression.” Why, then, is it trying to secretly censor the Internet?