Attorney General Downplays Ties To MPAA… Just As NY Times Reveals MPAA Actually Wrote The Letter He Sent Google

from the corruption-in-practice dept

Last week, we wrote about how some of the leaked emails from the Sony hack revealed that the MPAA was funding and coordinating various Attorneys General attacks on Google, even over topics that have nothing to do with copyright infringement. In response, Mississippi AG Jim Hood told the Huffington Post that he barely knows anyone at the MPAA, and has no idea who their lawyers are — and that the MPAA has “no major influence” on what he’s working on:

Hood said the MPAA “has no major influence on my decision-making,” although he noted that content creators occasionally provide reports and advice to him. “They’re just reporting wrongdoing. There’s nothing unusual about that,” he said. Hood said he has never asked MPAA a legal question, isn’t sure which lawyers they employ, and doesn’t think he’s ever met the organization’s general counsel.

Okay. Now keep that above paragraph in mind as you read the latest report from the NY Times, in which reporters Nick Wingfield and Eric Lipton (who just a few months ago had written that big article on questionable lobbying of Attorneys General) dig deeper into the Sony emails concerning the MPAA and AGs Jim Hood and Jon Bruning from Nebraska. The Times also uses some public records requests to show that the infamous letter that Hood sent to Google was almost entirely written by the MPAA’s lawyers. You can see the whole thing at the link, but this thumbnail shows a pretty long letter with the only parts actually written by Hood’s office being the intro at the top in green and a few minor word choices. All the rest came from the MPAA’s lawyers at Jenner and Block.

So… Hood claims that he doesn’t even know the MPAA’s lawyers, that it has no influence on what he does and that the MPAA is “just reporting wrongdoing” — but then he takes a ~4,000 word letter that those same MPAA lawyers (that he claims he doesn’t know) wrote, tosses on an intro and a few minor grammatical corrections, and sends it to Google? The letter itself is a piece of pure propaganda as well, completely misrepresenting a few things, taking others out of context, and making some bizarre legal arguments. Hood, of course, is no stranger to controversy and claims of cronyism, but this is taking things to another level.

The NY Times further uncovers that the “go-between” for the MPAA and Hood is a lobbyist the MPAA hired to run an MPAA front group. That lobbyist? Hood’s predecessor and close friend:

The movie industry, through a nonprofit group it funded called Digital Citizens Alliance, picked the perfect lobbyist to squeeze Mr. Hood: Mike Moore. Mr. Moore was Mr. Hood?s predecessor as Mississippi attorney general and helped start Mr. Hood?s political career. He remains a close friend of the attorney general and travels with him frequently; he has even played a role in helping Mr. Hood get elected as the president of the National Association of Attorneys General, emails obtained by The Times show.

That front group, the “Digital Citizens Alliance,” is one we discussed earlier this year, when it released a report about “evil” cyberlockers based on a misreading of two debunked studies. Certain cyberlockers have demanded a retraction of the report because of its ridiculous and shoddy methodology. In other words, the Alliance is not exactly the most trustworthy of operations — and it’s hired Jim Hood’s best buddy and political mentor. But Hood wants us to believe that this group has no influence on him?

Even other Attorneys General find the situation questionable:

Peggy Lautenschlager, who served as attorney general in Wisconsin, said that the role that the movie industry had played in pushing Mr. Hood, through Mr. Moore and others, was inappropriate. ?A private interest is influencing some attorneys general?s offices,? she said.

Meanwhile, others are trying to understand why Jim Hood is so close with the MPAA at all, since Mississippi doesn’t even have much of a connection to the film business:

That makes his behavior all the more unusual since Mississippi has almost no economic interest in the movie industry. Indeed, the state lacks a major film school, doesn?t house production for a single scripted TV show, and has served as the main shooting location for only 5 widely released movies over the past decade. The MPAA itself says that the state has a total of 242 film-and-television-production related jobs; one of the smallest per-capita totals in the nation. All-in-all Mississippi has more people who make their living arranging flowers (460, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics? databases) than in film and TV production. Maybe Jim Hood really likes hanging out with movie moguls?

Hood’s stated reasoning makes even less sense:

“Google’s not a government, they may think they are, but they don’t owe anyone a First Amendment right,” Hood told The Huffington Post. “If you’re an illegal site, you ought to clean up your act, instead of Google making money off it.”

[….]

Hood recalled a meeting in Boston, where a high school girl demonstrated to attorneys general how easy it was for her to find a violent version of “Django Unchained” on the Internet. “Some of the AGs were amazed at that real-time example of what Google is assisting,” Hood said.

Hood has “tried to get Google to delist several sites,” relating to pharmaceuticals. He said he views movies and music piracy as “insignificant” to state prosecutors, compared with more serious types of crime. But Hood said he would support a nonprofit organization coming up with a list of piracy sites that Google would remove from search results. He argued that current copyright law, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, isn’t adequate, because a website can get millions of takedown notices, but still do business as usual.

It appears Hood is quite confused about, well, nearly everything. No, Google doesn’t “owe anyone” a First Amendment right, but the government does. And here it appears that Hood — a government representative — is flat out supporting a censorship list of websites that must be blocked. Furthermore, he doesn’t seem to understand the difference between a search engine and actually hosting or uploading infringing content. He also doesn’t seem to recognize the history of blacklists and the fact that they always over-censor. Nor does he seem to understand how Google functions. All of these things would be rather easy to find out — but just as easy to ignore if the MPAA is the one giving you all your talking points and legal documents.

Meanwhile, the original letters revealed that the MPAA was looking for other Attorneys General it could convince to get in on the game, and the NY Times notes that a clear target is Nebraska’s Jon Bruning:

The movie association and its member companies, the messages show, have assigned a team of lawyers to prepare draft subpoenas and legal briefs for the attorneys general. And the groups have delivered campaign contributions ? with several movie studios sending checks ? to Jon Bruning, the Republican attorney general of Nebraska, who was helping push their cause, and who made an unsuccessful bid for governor this year.

Meanwhile, the reaction to all of this has been fascinating. I’ve seen multiple lawyers connected to Hollywood have kneejerk reactions that paying for an investigation, coordinating all of the efforts including writing up the letters and subpoenas, is just normal, everyday “aggressive competition.” Yet, these are the same people who go out there and claim that you sharing a copy of a movie you liked with someone else is morally bankrupt and evil. Some people, it seems, have a different moral compass. Frankly, private companies financing government investigations of other private companies seems a hell of a lot more morally questionable than someone sharing a copy of a film they like.

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Companies: google, mpaa

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Comments on “Attorney General Downplays Ties To MPAA… Just As NY Times Reveals MPAA Actually Wrote The Letter He Sent Google”

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39 Comments
Shill on drugs says:

“Attorney General Downplays Ties To MPAA”

see mike, no big deal. no laws were broken here and there is nothing wrong or unethical going on here. if there was the attorney general would have done an internal review on himself and concluded that he did something wrong. but he is concluding he did nothing wrong and so there must be nothing wrong going on here. this is just you jumping to conclusions without the facts.

also techdirt secretly works for google. the facts are i had a dream that says they do and that’s proof that its true. also techdirt is really a money laundering business that’s a front for illegal activity. that was in my dreams too. i was probably on drugs when i had these dreams but those are the facts. how else does it pay its expenses?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

i was probably on drugs when i had these dreams
You must have some goood stuff.

But the AG is correct, he doesn’t know the lawyers or the MPAA staff. He just met with a friend who happens to work for a lobby group. And it is a nonprofit group so they must be doing good things. That’s what nonprofit stands for right?

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

That is quite telling about what money can buy you. Buying an AG by funding the misters/madams campaign is probably a very good investment since they are so cheap compared to politicians. That this position is for sale because of the electability, is causing political agendas to shadow for professionalism and integrity.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Links to ValkeyWag are suspect by default. They’ve got a clear anti-Google agenda and when pressed on it they won’t respond or they’ll try and spin things as “Google is evil”. They even bring up Google in articles against companies who have nothing to do with Google beyond “Google does business with these companies” and they conveniently leave out that Google doesn’t run or own said companies.

Seriously, come back with a better source. Sam Biddle and the rest at ValleyWag cannot be trusted to report anything even remotely accurately, much less fairly

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

Links to ValkeyWag are suspect by default.

This one is even worse than usual. It just shows those who argued that the EU shouldn’t try to break up Google — and Valleywag insists that proves that those politicians are all “in Google’s pocket.”

While some copyright maximalists may find it hard to believe, it’s certainly possible to not be in Google’s pocket and think that it’s wrong to break up Google.

Even so, nothing in what’s described comes close to a private company paying to run an Attorney General’s investigation for him…

PaulT (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:3 Re:

“it’s certainly possible to not be in Google’s pocket and think that it’s wrong to break up Google.”

It’s possible to not understand why the hell it makes any sense other than “they’re very big and we don’t understand their business so it must be bad”. Ditto when they get accused of being a monopoly. No they’re not, whether you like them or not.

“Even so, nothing in what’s described comes close to a private company paying to run an Attorney General’s investigation for him…”

It’s typical distraction tactics. “Yeah, we did something bad – but those guys are bad too!”. As if identifying another criminal absolves you of your own criminal behaviour.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

In what ways has Google ‘bought’ politicians?

“These Letters Reveal Which Congressmen Google Has In Its Pocket”

Wait, just because some legislators simply agreed with Google on an issue automatically means they are bought by Google? This ‘news’ source seems very suspect at best. Talk about jumping to conclusions with no facts, typical of IP extremists only when it comes to something in favor of their propaganda. but when there is hard evidence that the MPAA is trying to buy government the shills will close their eyes, plug their ears, ignore the facts and pretend they don’t exist. Typical.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:2 Re:

When you have actual evidence that Google has bought any politicians then come back and present it. Until then don’t present us with a fake news site that makes baseless claims with no facts.

Yes some politicians and regulators have wrote/signed a letter urging other policy makers on an issue. This sort of thing happens all the time. but to then jump to the conclusion that this means they are bought by Google is hardly something any respectable journalist would suggest to be verified truth. Perhaps an unverified opinion or rumor but not something verified. The way this article presents it is almost libelous and surely not the hallmark of a reputable news organization.

Then the shills will turn around and claim that those accusing the MPAA of buying regulators are the ones jumping to conclusions without any facts and they shouldn’t be despite the fact that they have far more facts on their side than the IP shills have when they jump to conclusions that Techdirt is bought by Google or some other such nonsense. Hypocrites.

Anonymous Coward says:

if there was an ordinary person trying to get someone to change something to his/her benefit, it would last about 5 minutes before it was forced to be taken down and the person concerned would be arrested. Hood is obviously going to deny everything, like anyone else in a position such as his, but it’s not doing any good. he should be immediately suspended awaiting charges, just as Bruning should. and as for the load of lies and bullshit he puts out about things, including Google, and he’s an Attorney General? he should never have been given that post to begin with, so it seems. he doesn’t even have the basic knowledge concerning things, so it’s no wonder the MPAA picked him. he was probably expecting Dodd to have a word with one of his old Congress buddies, getting them to keep an eye on him!

Anonymous Coward says:

A question, and a proposal

TO: AG Hood, media lawyers and others

Have any of you used a search engine other than Google? Believe it or not, you can find smarmy material through any of them. Why? Because they’re all indexing the same stuff. Which leads a reasonable person to ask: What the fuck is wrong with you and why do you have such a hard-on for Google? But I digress.

Then problem, then, is that these private search engines search and index the entire internet indiscriminately and for some reason don’t want to deindex the sites you, and only you, want to be disappeared. How rude!

The solution is obvious: create your own search engine. It’s surprisingly easy – I’d say just google it for directions but that would be disingenuous. Once you have your search engine built, make its use mandatory by law. It’s just that simple!

Alas, I’m a pervert and pirate who enjoys my uncensored search results, so I must add any new mandatory use law to the long long list of laws I cheerfully break. But think how easy it would be to find me with a government-approved search engine! Why, I’d be in jail before I could finish type ‘movie downloa—….

Beech says:

Re: A question, and a proposal

I believe it may be part of a mosaic effort to discredit Google without actually having to prove that hey have done anything wrong. If you are a politician, and you hear “Google is bad” over and over from all kinds of different areas you start to believe it. Even if one, or two, or three, or all of the claims are quickly and easily disproven at the end of the day you go home and thing “Man, a lot of people don’t like Google. Google must be up to no good!”

Hephaestus (profile) says:

Re: A question, and a proposal

What the fuck is wrong with you and why do you have such a hard-on for Google?

It is the same method that they use increase the length of copyright. Expansion of influence via normalization, in one case its “they have a longer length of copyright, you should also”, in the case of Google, they get the biggest player on the block to bow to them, and then go after the smaller search engines saying “they are doing this, you should also”.

Rich Kulawiec (profile) says:

You've got to be kidding

“Google’s not a government, they may think they are, but they don’t owe anyone a First Amendment right,” Hood told The Huffington Post. “If you’re an illegal site, you ought to clean up your act, instead of Google making money off it.”

I find it difficult to believe that the person who uttered this factually confused, semantically meaningless, legally baseless, and utterly incoherent statement actually graduated from law school.

AC says:

Re: You've got to be kidding

I find it difficult to believe that the person who uttered this factually confused, semantically meaningless, legally baseless, and utterly incoherent statement actually graduated from law school.

Uttering factually confused, semantically meaningless, legally baseless, and utterly incoherent statements is the definition of practicing law, isn’t it?

Anonymous Coward says:

Another Attorney General with little or no knowledge of what he seeks as a crime. It’s also another AG that seems to be looking for a campaign to build his status for name recognition for advancement to a higher public office.

This goes right back to the same sort of idea where another AG thought it a good thing to attempt to confiscate a motel, where a claimed drug deal from a customer went down, even through the motel had a history of cooperating with the police for drug busts.

Laws that are too vague, an opportunity to make a name for ones self, and hunting a reason to justify it.

Beech says:

I’ve seen multiple lawyers connected to Hollywood have kneejerk reactions that paying for an investigation, coordinating all of the efforts including writing up the letters and subpoenas, is just normal, everyday “aggressive competition.”

I could maybe believe that if the MPAA and Google were actually like, competing in any of the same markets. The MPAA just picked a completely random scapegoat and is trying to unleash legal hell, that’s not competition unless Google is making movies now too. Or the MPAA is getting into search.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

Um, no where in that article does it say Hood was caught with his hand in the cookie jar (bribery). Saying such without a smoking gun proof would open Tech Dirt to a libel lawsuit as that moves from opinion to a flat statement of fact (especially as that’s an accusation of a federal & state crime!). They have the facts as stated in the article. Jim Hood sent an accusatory supoena to a judge asking for information he’s not entitled to. That document is apparently originally authored by MPAA’s retained lawfirm as they found the original text. He says he has no direct contact with them. Google asks for federal judge to squash. End of legitimate story.

That One Guy (profile) says:

Not helping your case here

Hood said he has never asked MPAA a legal question, isn’t sure which lawyers they employ, and doesn’t think he’s ever met the organization’s general counsel.

So he’s never met any of their lawyers, and in fact doesn’t even know who they employ as lawyers, yet they wrote the vast majority of a letter he sent to Google…

Either he’s lying through his teeth, or he’s in the habit of letting complete strangers write the official letters he sends out as AG, I’m not quite sure why he thought the second would come across as any better really.

GEMont (profile) says:

Buy one, get two for half price - Attorney Generals Special

Wonder what the chances of success are for a crowd-funded public Buy An Attorney General fund?

Seems like its around about a million for a smart one and about half that for your run of the mill idiot type.

Surely the public could raise a million or two and get themselves some behind the scenes sabotage work on a few of the bad apples recently exposed by Snowden, if we had a few of them Rentable Attorney Generals on our side.

I mean its pretty obvious that these Attorney Generals are eager and willing to shit down anyone’s throat if the money is right.

Hey. What exactly does an Attorney General actually do, when he’s not doing dirty work for the Entertainment Industry, I mean.

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