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Leaked email reveals secret anti-piracy meeting between Google, Sony, and Homeland Security

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Joi Ito / Flickr

Hollywood studios have struggled with Google over piracy issues before, but a new leak suggests the companies may be patching up their differences with some unexpected help from Homeland Security. A leaked email sent to Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton on March 19, 2012, provides a new look at how Google fits into anti-piracy efforts, in Hollywood and beyond. The email describes a small, secret group assembled by Homeland Security's John Morton, apparently assembled to address piracy and other crimes on the web. Sent by a member of Sony's legal affairs team, the email suggests the meeting as a place where the company's "Google issues" can be resolved. "Google is apparently willing to do more than its public (and not so public) positions," the email says.

"Google is apparently willing to do more than its public (and not so public) positions."

On the web side, the group includes a senior ICANN member and Vint Cerf, Google's Chief Internet Evangelist as well as a pivotal figure in the creation of the internet. On the corporate side, the group includes a surprising array of companies that have faced and fought back various piracy and copyright issues. The President and CEO of Eli Lilly is involved, as a result of the company's successful fight against counterfeit pharmaceuticals sold online. The language service Rosetta Stone is also included, as well as representatives from the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. There's no firm indication of the meeting's subject matter, but given the long and often tense relationship between Google and the content industry, it seems likely that piracy issues would quickly find their way to the top of the agenda.

The email is reproduced in full below:

Subject line: Today's call with John Morton, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security

John is calling you today to invite you to join a small group being formed to meet with him and Google ( and a few others) to explore working together to find a "compromise " to the Google issues; his theory is that a small group will be more constructive and productive.

Google apparently is willing to do more than its public (and not so public) positions; Google suggested you as the most balanced and reasonable person on the studio side and specifically requested your participation. No other studio would be involved.

You are his first phone call invitation to this small group. He plans on also inviting the Chairman , President and CEO of Eli Lilly , John C. Lechleiter, who is very involved in fighting counterfeit pharmaceuticals; additionally , he wants to invite Ernie Allen who is the President and CEO of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. I have attached the resumes of each of these 2 gentlemen. Lastly, he is thinking of including someone from Rosetta Stone; I still have not confirmed who that would be. From what I understand, John does not want the group any larger.

On the Google side, I have been told that Vinton C. Cerf , Vice President and "Chief Internet Evangelist", as well as Dr. Stephen C. Crocker, Board Chair of ICANN, would attend. They are childhood friends and together have been responsible for laying the Internet’s foundation. I have also attached their resumes.

The meetings would be in Washington most likely since the others are in Indianapolis , Washington and Virginia respectively. Lastly, he has asked that we keep this very confidential.