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Google Asks Judge to Force Studios to Comply With Subpoenas Over Anti-Piracy Lobbying

Google asked a New York federal judge to force 21st Century Fox, NBCUniversal and Viacom to comply with a subpoena for their communications with Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, as evidence that the studios exercised undue influence that instigated his investigation of the search giant.

In a filing in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, Google dismissed the studios’ claims that their records of communications with Hood were privileged or irrelevant to ongoing litigation in Mississippi. Google sued Hood in December, claiming that his investigation was in violation of its First and Fourth Amendment rights.

“Although Google’s lawsuit is against Attorney General Hood, the architects of his campaign against Google appear to be interested parties that have spent years pursuing an anti-Google agenda,” including Fox, NBCU and Viacom, Google said in its filing. “Following the defeat in 2012 of legislation they pushed called the Stop Online Piracy Act, these entities began aggressively lobbying state attorneys general to build cases against Google over what they claim was Google’s indulgence of copyright infringement.”

Google claims that lobbying efforts were “funneled” through the MPAA, the Digital Citizens Alliance and Jenner & Block, which formed an “AG Working Group” that acquired “significant influence” with state law enforcers, including Hood.

“Documents uncovered by reporters reveal that this Working Group formulated a list of demands to be sent to Google by AG Hood and other state attorneys general, actually wrote letters to Google that Hood sent, dictated the timing of his investigative escalations, tried to recruit other government officials to support him, and even prepared the 79-page CID at the center of this case,” Google said in its filing.

Google is seeking communications that the studios had with Hood and other state attorneys general, as well as information on campaign donations to Hood or to the Democratic Attorney Generals Assn.

The motion is not unusual, as disputes over production of documents is typical during the litigation discovery process.

In March, U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate issued a preliminary injunction barring Hood from issuing a subpoena on Google as part of his investigation. Wingate wrote that there was a “substantial likelihood” that Google will prevail on its claim that Hood violated its First Amendment rights. He has not made a final ruling on the merits of the case.

A spokeswoman for the MPAA said, “This is just the latest effort by Google to distract attention from legitimate questions about whether it is profiting from illegal activity online, including fake pharmaceuticals, fraudulent documents, stolen intellectual property and more. Google is not above the law.  Attorney General Hood should be allowed to investigate whether Google’s actions violate state consumer protection laws.”

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