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Documents in Sony leak show how state attorney general was cozy with Hollywood

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AP

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.

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.

Other emails show specific requests from Hood circulating among MPAA lawyers. In an email sent on January 16th, a few days before a scheduled meeting between Google and a group of attorneys general, MPAA counsel Vans Stevenson discusses which supporting documents they can provide to Hood and the other AGs in advance.

[Attorney] General Hood called me last night and asked that we provide fresh examples for his planned live "search" demonstration of illegal site activity, including the availability of motion pictures only in theatrical release, which we are working on with our [outside counsel] Tom Perrelli’s team.

A few days later, on the 21st, an email from Perrelli talks about coaching Hood before the meeting:

I spent more time with Hood after the meeting and, I hope, got him focused on the key issues and the asks. He really does care a great deal about piracy – and he doesn’t get sidetracked by some of the things that Microsoft prefers. He wants Google to delist pirate sites and he is going to ask them to do that tomorrow.

Taken together with other documents, it makes a strong case that Hood was being directed by both the MPAA and Microsoft in his investigations into Google, and casts many of those investigations in a new light.

Hollywood has also been a lucrative source of campaign donations for Hood. Last year, he received $3,000 from Comcast and NBC Universal, along with $1,000 from 21st Century Fox. The MPAA’s Illinois PAC also gave $2,500 to an independent campaign group called Friends of Jim Hood. Hood, for his part, has denied any impropriety. Reached by The Huffington Post, Hood said he had spoken with Perrelli but was not aware of any relationship between Perrelli and the MPAA or Jenner & Block. "I could not tell you which law firm he works for now," Hood said.