August 2, 2021

Google wins injunction in Mississippi web piracy case

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Google campusBy Sue Reisinger, From Corporate Counsel
Courtesy photo.
Google Inc. General Counsel Kent Walker won a major first-round victory Monday in the company’s court fight to keep Mississippi from blocking Internet content.
At Google’s request, U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate in Jackson entered a preliminary injunction against Attorney General Jim Hood and his 79-page subpoena against Google, disrupting Mississippi’s legal efforts to create its own law to stop online piracy through censoring websites, especially YouTube (which is owned by Google).
In ordering the temporary injunction, Wingate said Google had “satisfied its burden” in showing that it “has a substantial likelihood of prevailing on the merits” and that the injunction would further the public interest, among other things. He stressed, however, that the court was “not forecasting any ultimate ruling on the merits.”
Google filed the court action last December seeking declaratory and injunction relief against Hood, who had threatened criminal or civil action against the Internet service provider and served the company with a “retaliatory and burdensome” subpoena, according to the complaint.
At the time, Walker posted an article on Google’s public policy blog accusing the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) of being secretly behind Hood’s investigation and threats. The MPAA previously had tried but failed to get Congress to pass a national Stop Online Piracy Act.
Meanwhile, some heavy hitters have lined up on both sides of the court action.
Former Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick and other lawyers from Wilmer Cutler Pickering Hale and Dorr’s Washington, D.C., and New York offices are representing Google, along with the Jackson, Mississippi, law firm of Forman Perry Watkins Krutz & Tardy. They have accused Hood of wanting to censor the Internet in violation of federal law and the U.S. Constitution.
Numerous Internet advocacy groups, led by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, have filed friend of the court briefs on behalf of Google.
Hood is represented by his assistant attorney general, Douglas Miracle, attorney Bridgette Williams Wiggins from the attorney general’s office/consumer protection division, and Laura Crittenden from the Kentucky attorney general’s office. They have contended that Google is allowing third parties to post pirated and illegal content.
But there are several other defendants in the action besides Hood, such as the Digital Citizens Alliance. It is represented by a team from the Washington, D.C., law firm Bancroft, which includes former U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement and former Assistant U.S. Attorney General Viet Dinh, who is one of Bancroft’s founders.
Hood is backed by a friend of the court brief urging the court to dismiss the Google action from the attorneys general for Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Iowa, Kentucky, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington state.
Their brief says the lawsuit “involves matters of significant national importance” and it defends the authority of the attorney general to “investigate potential unlawful conduct,” including his subpoena power.
But so far round one goes to Google. Round two will begin in roughly 14 days when Wingate told Hood to file an answer to Google’s original complaint seeking permanent relief.
Wingate concluded his order: “This court does not require Google, the moving party, to post any security. This matter will be adjudicated quickly; so, this court sees no need for the requirement of security.”
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