Techdirt has a stunning article showing how corrupt we have become.
The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) was trying to force Google’s search engine to stop linking to content that MPAA didn’t like. Search engines are supposed to search for websites, but the MPAA wanted the power to make sites they don’t like simply disappear from search engines, as if they didn’t exist. Of course, the websites still would exist (if you know their domain name or IP address), but you couldn’t search for them to find them.
Unfortunately for the MPAA (and fortunately for us), US law (specifically, Section 230 of the CDA) is very clear that you can’t hold a service provider responsible for the actions of its users. For example, if two criminals discuss over the telephone robbing a bank, the telephone company is not criminally at fault for not stopping the conversation. The same thing is true of the internet; in particular, if a search engine returns a website that contains some content that is infringing someone’s copyright, the search engine is not at fault and cannot be forced to disappear that website from its results.
Imagine if this were not the case. Any website that contains, returns, or even just links to user-generated content would have to censor everything on their site that may be violating a copyright. Not just search engines (like Google or Bing) but also social media sites (like Facebook or Twitter), sites that contain user reviews (like Amazon or Yelp) and even Internet Service Providers (like Comcast). To see how insane this would be, if any user on Facebook (or Twitter, etc.) ever linked to copyrighted content, Facebook would be responsible for censoring that content, and if they fail, Google (or Bing, etc.) would be responsible for not returning a link to Facebook in their search results.
And it isn’t just copyrights. If a newspaper (like the Guardian, New York Times, etc.) posts an article containing content from Wikileaks, and then you tweet a link to that article, not only would the newspaper be liable for breaking the law, but you could go to prison for posting a link to that article.
Free speech, along with the Internet, would die. But the MPAA doesn’t care about the internet.
If the MPAA finds illegal copyrighted material on the internet, they are responsible for notifying the person who posted that content to remove it. That’s the law, but it is too difficult for copyright owners to police the internet to remove copyrighted material, so they wanted to get companies (like Google) to do it for them. And that’s where things get really bad.
Because the MPAA couldn’t force Google to do this legally, they decided to strong arm them. They enlisted the aid of Mississippi state attorney general Jim Hood to run a smear campaign against Google.
How do we know they did this? Here’s the smoking gun:
It’s an email between the MPAA and two of Jim Hood’s top lawyers in the Mississippi AG’s office, discussing the big plan to “hurt” Google. Beyond influencing other Attorneys General (using misleading fake “setups” of searches for “bad” material) and paying for fake anti-Google research, the lawyers from Hood’s office flat out admit that they’re expecting the MPAA and the major studios to have its media arms run a coordinated propaganda campaign of bogus anti-Google stories.
Here’s an excerpt from the email, discussing a proposed media campaign:
We want to make sure that the media is at the NAAG meeting. We propose working with MPAA (Vans), Comcast, and NewsCorp (Bill Guidera) to see about working with a PR firm to create an attack on Google (and others who are resisting AG efforts to address online piracy). This PR firm can be funded through a nonprofit dedicated to IP issues. The “live buys” should be available for the media to see, followed by a segment the next day on the Today Show (David green can help with this). After the Today Show segment, you want to have a large investor of Google (George can help us determine that) come forward and say that Google needs to change its behavior/demand reform. Next, you want NewsCorp to develop and place an editorial in the WSJ emphasizing that Google’s stock will lose value in the face of a sustained attack by AGs and noting some of the possible causes of action we have developed.
That’s right, the MPAA is conspiring with supposedly independent media (including the Today Show and the Wall Street Journal) to run stories attacking companies who are (legally) resisting efforts to “address online piracy”, along with a sustained attack by supposedly impartial Attorney Generals with the aim of forcing Google stock to lose value so they will have to capitulate.
This is definitely corruption. It also looks like blackmail. I’m sure if I were as powerful as the MPAA, I could easily find a law that classifies this as economic terrorism.