When a digital attack revealed the private emails of Sony Pictures employees, it also revealed a number of troubling anti-piracy projects that would cut against the basic engineering principles of the web. MPAA documents revealed that Hollywood hasn't given up on SOPA, the controversial anti-piracy that was struck down in Congress in 2011, and is looking into ways it could justify the same proposals under existing law. The industry's biggest adversary in that fight is Google, referred to over and over again under the codename "Goliath."
Apr 11, 2016
A new appeals court ruling has reopened the fight between Google and Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood. Filed this morning by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, the core of the ruling is procedural, vacating an earlier injunction against a subpoena filed by Hood against Google. The court found that the injunction was not necessary because the issue could have been more appropriately adjudicated in a district court.Read Article >
Mar 30, 2015
A federal court in Mississippi is convinced so far that Google will prevail against the state's attorney general in a lawsuit over an allegedly burdensome and over-broad subpoena. Google filed the suit a week after The Verge published a report tying Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood to a secret Hollywood campaign to fight Google, pinning blame on it for piracy. Hood had handed Google a 79-page-long subpoena requesting a wealth of information and interviews, which Google is now fighting back against on grounds that it violates its First and Fourth Amendment rights.Read Article >
The court granted Google a preliminary injunction against the attorney general earlier this month, and that's now being elaborated on in an order issued Friday. The court says that it believes Google has demonstrated a "substantial likelihood" that it will prevail on its First Amendment claims and that Google's Fourth Amendment claim has "substantial merit." This isn't necessarily a surprise — Google appeared to have a strong case, and a "substantial" chance at prevailing in a case is necessary for this kind of injunction — but the court's language emphasizes why it's critical here.
Mar 2, 2015
Google just chalked up an early win against Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, an MPAA-friendly prosecutor who was implicated in a number of Goliath documents. A federal court in Jackson, Mississippi, has granted a preliminary injunction against Hood's efforts to fight content piracy on Google's network, restricting any subpoena or further investigative action from Hood while the case is still in progress. It's still early in the case, but the injunction represents a significant win for Google and a real setback for both Hood and his supporters at the MPAA.Read Article >
Jan 2, 2015
Hollywood’s war on piracy has reached a strange impasse. While the MPAA and others have launched lawsuits against US-based infringers, reaching offshore torrent sites like Isohunt and The Pirate Bay is still a slow process, and whenever a site is taken down, others quickly pop up to fill its place. As a result, the MPAA has consistently pushed for the power to block infringing sites from the internet: first by pushing for new laws like SOPA in 2011, then through a series of novel legal tactics. The fight has pitted them against some of the most powerful companies on the web, and drawn them into a long, secret battle with Google.Read Article >
Dec 22, 2014
The same groups that brought down SOPA seem to be turning their attention to the recent Goliath news. On the heels of Google's lawsuit against the Mississippi attorney general, a coalition of 13 advocacy groups has turned its attention to the recent actions against Google, and is issuing a letter criticizing Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood's role in the MPAA program known as Project Goliath. Hood has already called for a "time out" in the ongoing legal battle, but judging by the letter, many web freedom groups are unimpressed.Read Article >
Dec 20, 2014
Hours after Google took legal action against him, Mississippi's attorney general is retreating. Jim Hood issued a statement late Friday saying he is "calling a time out, so that cooler heads may prevail." His next sentence seemed to be missing a word or two, but here you go: "I will reach out to legal counsel Google's board of directors 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."Read Article >
Dec 19, 2014
Last Friday, The Verge published leaked documents revealing a secret legal campaign to discredit Google, coordinated by the MPAA on behalf of the major Hollywood studios. The documents show a continued focus on the power to blocking sites from the web — a central issue in the 2011 SOPA debates — and a concerted effort to enlist state attorney generals in that fight. Both Google and the MPAA have issued harsh statements over the news, but today the fight is growing into a full-fledged legal battle.Read Article >
Dec 19, 2014
The Motion Picture Association of America has responded to Google's condemnation of Project Goliath, a secret and ambitious anti-piracy program revealed in leaked Sony documents. Yesterday, the search company said it was "deeply concerned" by the MPAA's efforts to push new content-blocking methods and help attorneys general build legal cases against Google, accusing the organization of attempting to "secretly censor the internet." But a spokesperson for the MPAA says these claims are disingenuous.Read Article >
Dec 18, 2014
After hacked documents revealed that Sony and other media companies were attempting to pass harsh anti-piracy measures, Google has condemned its actions. "We are deeply concerned about recent reports that the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) led a secret, coordinated campaign to revive the failed SOPA legislation through other means," the company said in a blog post today. It went on to point out details that The Verge and other sites found while combing through the terabytes of information leaked by the hacker group Guardians of Peace.Read Article >
Dec 18, 2014
At the end of last week, we dug up news of Project Goliath, a secret Hollywood project to investigate and discredit Google on issues of copyright and web freedom. But while the documents showed how bad things had gotten between Google and Hollywood, they also showed how eagerly many state attorneys general took up the MPAA’s anti-Google crusade – particularly Mississippi’s Jim Hood. And less than a week after the documents were made public, that eagerness is starting to have real consequences.Read Article >
Hood has been at the center of many of the recent legal actions against Google in the US, investigating the company for involvement in both pharmaceutical counterfeiting and content piracy, but never assembling enough evidence for concrete charges. But on Tuesday, The New York Times revealed the MPAA may have had more of a hand in his actions than he let on. According to Times documents, a November 2013 letter Hood wrote criticizing Google for aiding piracy was almost entirely copied from text provided to him by lawyers working for the MPAA. In short, Hood’s lips were moving, but it was the MPAA’s approved text coming out.
Dec 16, 2014
Most anti-piracy tools take one of two paths: they either target the server that's sharing the files (pulling videos off YouTube or taking down sites like The Pirate Bay) or they make it harder to find (delisting offshore sites that share infringing content). But leaked documents reveal a frightening line of attack that's currently being considered by the MPAA: What if you simply erased any record that the site was there in the first place?Read Article >
Dec 15, 2014
Today, most observers would tell you the piracy fight has reached a standstill. It's easy to take down infringing links from platforms like Google and YouTube, and a string of international prosecutions has turned file-sharing sites like The Pirate Bay and Isohunt into an endangered species. At the same time, more draconian measures that would wipe the sites off the internet entirely have largely failed within the US after a string of legislative defeats that culminated in 2011's SOPA and PIPA fights.Read Article >
Dec 12, 2014
Today on The Verge we published a story about a major operation by the MPAA to broadly and significantly impact the distribution of information, which would impact how free speech works on the internet. We obtained this information from a massive hack whose prime objective was to punish a US studio for exercising its free speech rights. The irony is not lost on us.Read Article >
The Sony leak is a story that lands at the intersection of tech, business, and entertainment; in other words, right in The Verge's wheelhouse. (I was brought on as the site's first dedicated entertainment editor last month.) But we missed some of the first big stories to come out of the Sony leaks, and if that goes down in our history as a loss, then as an editor I take at least partial responsibility. When the news broke that terabytes of personal data of the employees of a corporation was now available for public consumption, my initial reaction was not, "Oh rad, let's see if we can get our hands on that James Bond script." It was alarm at the severity and purported intention of the act, and the slow horror of realizing that this was the "cyber Pearl Harbor" Leon Panetta had been waiting for, except instead of the Pentagon or the CIA, it targeted an entertainment company.
Dec 12, 2014
What is "Goliath" and why are Hollywood’s most powerful lawyers working to kill it?Read Article >
In dozens of recently leaked emails from the Sony hack, lawyers from the MPAA and six major studios talk about "Goliath" as their most powerful and politically relevant adversary in the fight against online piracy. They speak of "the problems created by Goliath," and worry "what Goliath could do if it went on the attack." Together they mount a multi-year effort to "respond to / rebut Goliath’s public advocacy" and "amplify negative Goliath news." And while it’s hard to say for sure, significant evidence suggests that the studio efforts may be directed against Google.