Google to MPAA: First Amendment Does Not Shield You From Discovery

Published: March 28, 2016 5:23 PM /


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For years, Google has been in a fight with Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood. Hood seemed to be on a crusade against Google over the company's alleged promotion of piracy because sites with pirated content show up in search results. However the fight took on a new dimension in late 2014, when the emails from the Sony hack revealed an improper relationship between Hood and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA). As a result of this new information, Google sued Hood and filed numerous subpoenas against Hood and the Motion Picture Association of America.

One of Google's latest attempts to get information from them was by requesting deposition from MPAA general counsel Steven Fabrizio. However the MPAA fought back by filing a motion to quash this request. They stated that Fabrizio only sent two emails to Hood, and therefore he doesn't have anything to tell Google that is relevant to the case. The MPAA also questions Google's motives by stating, "The conclusion is inescapable that Google seeks this deposition not to advance any legitimate discovery goal, but rather to satisfy Google’s curiosity about, and potentially undermine, the MPAA’s anti-piracy legal strategies."

The MPAA further argued that such inquiries by Google into their internal deliberations was a threat to its first amendment rights. "Inquiry by Google into the MPAA’s decisions to petition government law enforcement officials for assistance regarding Google’s conduct threatens to chill the First Amendment associational rights of the MPAA, its employees (including Mr. Fabrizio), and its members."

Google soon punched back with a filing of its own. Google argued that the Motion Picture Association of America needed to provide more concrete proof that its first amendment rights were being chilled and not simply state that it is the case. "It is simply not enough for the MPAA to claim that its associational rights would be 'chilled' because the MPAA would prefer that its covert lobbying efforts remain secret so that it can avoid scrutiny or embarrassment," the filing states,  "It must actually show consequences which objectively suggest an impact on, or 'chilling' of, the members' associational rights."

Google also turned the tables on them regarding the first amendment, claiming it is the target of a conspiracy to have its speech suppressed. "There is something deeply troubling in the MPAA claiming the First Amendment privilege to shield its role in lobbying Attorney General Hood to threaten Google’s First Amendment rights. The MPAA should not be permitted to spend years lobbying a public official to suppress the speech of a business rival and then turn around and hide behind the very rights it was trying to squelch."

Is it reasonable for Google to seek deposition from the MPAA's general counsel? Leave your comments below.

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I’m a technology reporter located near the Innovation District of Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario.