Google Sues Mississippi Attorney General After Sony Email Leaks

Google alleges the emails highlight that Attorney General Hood is working with the Motion Picture Association of America to harass the company in violation of federal law.

by Bobby Harrison, Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal / December 22, 2014
Attorney General Jim Hood, Mississippi (pictured right) Flickr/U.S. Mission Geneva

(TNS) -- Found in the now-infamous hacked emails of Sony Pictures executives were conversations about President Barack Obama, Hollywood stars such as Angelina Jolie, and Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood.

Hood, a Chickasaw County native and Mississippi's only statewide elected Democrat, has found himself part of the national story about North Korea's apparent hacking of Sony Pictures in what appears to be a successful attempt to prevent the company from releasing a movie about a fictitious effort to assassinate the country's dictator.

The emails involving Hood have led search-engine behemoth Google to file a federal lawsuit against the attorney general in federal court in Jackson.

Google alleges the emails highlight that Hood is working with the Motion Picture Association of America to harass the company in violation of federal law, including violating its free speech rights through his massive subpoena of Google documents.

Hood, whose issues with Google and other Internet companies have been ongoing for years, said he is only doing his job, trying to prevent Google from "leading kids to illegal sites."

In a statement late Friday, Hood -- current president of the National Association of Attorneys General -- said he was calling "a time-out so that cooler heads could prevail." He said he would "reach out" to Google's legal counsel "to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the issues affecting consumers that we attorneys general have pointed out in a series of eight letters to Google."

But in recent interviews Hood has defended his working with the motion picture industry as revealed by the leaked Sony emails. The emails where Hood was prominently mentioned have been reported by various national media outlets, including the New York Times.

"There is nothing inappropriate about working with a victim," Hood said, saying his office does that all the time. "They (movie companies) have had their property stolen."

The motion picture and music industries have long been concerned about the release of their products on the Internet where they are watched or listened to for free.

Hood, a veteran prosecutor, conceded that many people, especially the younger generation, do not see anything wrong with being able to download the latest movie or song at no charge, but said he believes strongly in protecting a person's or company's "intellectual property."

He said it is especially important in Mississippi, which despite its poverty and small population has produced an inordinate number of musicians and writers.

But Hood said his work with the motion picture industry is almost a byproduct of his primary mission, which is to get Google to adjust its search engine so it does not lead people -- especially juveniles -- to sites where they can purchase drugs illegally.

In a recent news conference, Hood had a screen capture on the wall in his Jackson office where a Google search using the key words "buy drugs" led to Internet sites where Hood said prescription drugs can be purchased illegally online.

Hood said Google has proven it can prevent such sites from showing up in its searches because when there is a search for child porn the search engine does not provide any Internet sites. In Germany, Google blocks Internet sites associated with the Nazi party, Hood said.

"All we are trying to do is get Google to be a responsible citizen," he said

In its defense, Google said it has worked with Hood and other attorneys general to limit searches, and to limit access to You Tube videos that instruct people on illegal activities.

But Google has argued Hood and the AGs should be focused on shutting down illegal websites, not on a search engine.

Hood countered that many of the Internet sites are out of country and out of the reach of states' attorneys general.

Hood said the motion picture industry is helpful because it can provide expertise needed to tackle a large company like Google. He pointed out Google in 2011 agreed to "forfeit" $500 million to the United States for past bad behavior.

©2014 Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal (Tupelo, Miss.)