·  by Michael Petricone

Wikileaks Exposes Movie Industry Efforts to Stifle Innovation

Originally Posted On: CEA Blog

In publishing a searchable database of thousands of emails from Sony Pictures Entertainment last month, Wikileaks has given the public a peek behind the curtain of the Motion Picture Association of America’s (MPAA) use of government power to silence free speech and stifle innovation.

For months, Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood has targeted Google with subpoenas — including a crushingly broad 79-page subpoena filed late last year — threatening legal action, unless Google removes all links to content the attorney general finds objectionable.

Hood’s campaign is part of an attempt by the movie studios to covertly fund attorneys general to achieve the goals of so-called “anti-piracy” legislation known as SOPA and PIPA. Both proposals famously failed in Congress in 2012 after a public outcry over what would have amounted to broad censorship of the Internet.

For much of 2015, Hood has cited attorney-client privilege to keep Google’s lawyers from seeing correspondence between his office and movie-industry lobbyists. In a “supplemental privilege log,” the attorney general claims he does not know who authored his subpoenas.  But now, thanks to Wikileaks, the public can clearly see the movie industry’s coordinated campaign to use Hood’s authority as attorney general to bully Google.

CEA, along with the Computer and Communications Industry Association and Engine, filed an amicus brief January 30 supporting Google in its efforts to end Hood’s harassment-by-subpoena. The first line of the brief reads: “No public official should have discretion to filter the Internet.” That raises a larger question: Should trade associations, through dealings with states’ attorneys general, be able to direct harassing and abusive legal process at other legitimate businesses?

The short answer: No.

The First Amendment protects the right of private citizens to petition governments for redress of grievances, and the right of innovators to provide an open forum and marketplace for ideas and content. Though a federal judge in Mississippi has ruled that Hood went too far in his attacks on Google, the MPAA and its members continue to shop for constraints, just as they did in federal law by pushing unsuccessfully for unduly restrictive anti-piracy bills.