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Appeals Court Rules for Mississippi AG Over Subpoena of Google’s Search Practices

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Updated

An appellate court has ruled that Google should not have been granted a preliminary injunction that prevents Mississippi’s attorney general from enforcing a subpoena over its search practices.

Attorney General James Hood has sought information from Google after expressing concern that it was not doing enough to combat copyright infringement and the sale of counterfeit goods. In 2014, Google challenged his subpoena in a federal lawsuit, contending that it violated its First Amendment rights, among other claims.

An appeals court on Friday struck down a 2015 lower court injunction that put Hood’s subpoena on hold. The district court prohibited Hood from enforcing the subpoena and from bringing civil or criminal action “for making accessible third-party content to Internet users.”

Although the appellate judges did not rule on the merits of the case, they concluded that “neither the issuance of the non-self-executing administrative subpoena nor the possibility of some future enforcement action created an imminent threat of irreparable injury ripe for adjudication.”

In addition to throwing out the injunction, the appellate judges remanded the case to the district court “with instructions to dismiss.”

“We believe the Fifth Circuit’s decision speaks for itself,” said an MPAA spokesman. “But we would like to take this opportunity to thank Attorney General Hood for his ongoing efforts and for his commitment to supporting the rule of law on the Internet.”

A Google spokesman said, “We’re reviewing the implications of the Court’s decision, which focused on whether our claim was premature rather than on the merits of the case.”

Google also contends that Hood has been unduly influenced by the studios to launch an investigation of their search practices.

Read the full appellate opinion here.