back to article Blind justice: Google lawsuit silences elected state prosecutor

Google's success in "assassinating" a democratically-elected legal opponent last week raises troubling questions about corporate power and accountability. The feisty attorney for the USA's poorest state is now trying to make peace, after being on the receiving end of a highly unusual lawsuit from Google. Even if you will have …

  1. jai

    i forget...

    who was it that was banging on about "Don't be evil" being their guiding mantra a couple of years ago?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: i forget...

      Aren't there three issues here?

      1. The MPAA exercising undue pressure on an elected official so he no longer does what the people want but what they want.

      2. Google then using the law to stop him but only because it's what they want.

      3. Was the action the elected official was taking the right thing to do and was it done in perspective. In other words if it was right was it being pushed ahead of other things which should have been done first.

      1. Tom 13

        Re: Aren't there three issues here?

        No.

        Like it or not the MPAA is just as much a constituent as Jimmy Bob Smith down at the end of the dirt road.

        Like it or not the MPAA is entitled to donate to his campaign. It appears they didn't even donate the maximum amount.

        And you've completely ignored the legitimate issues Andrew has raised about what Hood was doing. Which as a hard right Republican is something I am loathe to admit about any Democrat, but will do so when the facts require it.

        Ultimately the only people who get to say he wasn't doing what Mississippi wants him to do are the voters in Mississippi. They'll do that next election cycle.

        1. Tex Arcana

          Re: Aren't there three issues here?

          "Like it or not the MPAA is just as much a constituent as Jimmy Bob Smith down at the end of the dirt road."

          Negative.

          The individuals making up said group are entitled to representation; but the group itself is patently not a "person" or "individual", and therefore has no such entitlement (despite the purchased and very erroneous rulings to the contrary).

        2. Marshalltown

          Re: Aren't there three issues here?

          As a Republican myself, I can't really say what I really think should be done with both the MPAA and the Google board. However, the MPAA are not constituents of Hood's. Their attempt to develop and dialog and persuasive raport with Hood muddied waters that Google exploited to the extent that we now have this repulsive result.

          The truly creepy aspect of all this is that this kind of politics hearks back to science fiction stories such as Kornbluth and Pohl's Space Merchant and William Gibson's novels. We are in the position of seeing massive corporations demanding citizen's rights under national laws and the same arguing that those same nations and states have no jurisdiction. Think about that a bit. Would it not be poetic justice a judge were to agree that some specific government has no jurisdiction and that because of that the corporation also has no standing to complain? Where would Google and the MPAA really be then?

    2. Shannon Jacobs
      Holmes

      Current google motto: All your attentions is belonging to US

      Former coworker now at Google accidentally revealed the new slogan of the google:

      All your attentions is belonging to US.

      However, the google didn't go EVIL overnight. I first noticed their EVIL when the started censoring me about 8 or 10 years ago. Some sort of death penalty, but whenever I ask about it, I receive a robotic reply that the case is still under review. What case? What crime? (Presumably something that they regard as a violation of some ToS, but damn if I know what it is--or maybe my death penalty is for profanity of the most sincere sort?)

      Well, now I saw phuck the google and the horse it rode in on. EVIL is as the google does.

      P.S. I've noticed that criticisms of Microsoft and the google tend to elicit lots of down votes. Let me assure you that I could not care less, but if you have the guts or data to back up your disagreement, let's see your comment. In the case of the google, I'm liable to dismiss it as just more lobbying by a herd of professional sock puppets.

      1. John Hughes

        Re: Current google motto: All your attentions is belonging to US

        Google censoring you?

        How, where?

    3. Marcus Aurelius
      Meh

      Re: i forget...

      There are occasions when Google has been wrong and a little over enthusiastic in their desire to get data on everything (and everyone). I'm not sure that they have crossed the boundaries into being evil

      In this case Hood was not so much doing a service to Mississipians but copy/paste lawsuiting for the MPAA which is not a popular organisation at the best of times.

      1. ChrisBedford

        Re: i forget...

        -> Marcus Aurelius: "...Hood was [...] copy/paste lawsuiting for the MPAA"

        Did you not read the article? Cause I did and I didn't read that anywhere. Granted, this is after Christmas dinner but I don't think I'm that squiffy.

        On what evidence do you base that assertion? Sounds to me like you are prepared to read anything you like, as long as it agrees with what you already made your mind up about.

    4. Adam Inistrator

      Re: i forget...

      "dont be evil" is a command to us from our overlord

    5. Frankee Llonnygog

      Re: i forget...

      "Do no evil"

      And, lobby for the redefinition of 'evil'

  2. Bloodbeastterror

    Worrying if it's accurate

    What happened to "Don't be evil"...?

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: Worrying if it's accurate

      What happened to "Don't be evil"...?

      Nothing. It was nonsense when they first adopted it, and it's still nonsense. Why would anyone ever believe it?

  3. John Savard Silver badge

    Selling narcotics or fake drugs over the Internet is a serious matter. Many Internet users would like Google to be above the law - in the sense that they would like to have a search engine that tells them what is out there, whether governments like it or not. But this isn't achievable.

    However, while it's troubling that a corporation can bully elected governments, it's also troubling that a single state government can make law for the whole United States - and, sometimes, the whole world. Thus, while I basically support the article, there are other questions that make this more complicated.

    Incidentally, for the United States to have a "51st richest state", it would have to have 51 states, which it doesn't. Alaska and Hawaii brought the total up to 50 from 48, and none have been added since then.

    1. Danny 14 Silver badge

      51st state is probably "rest of the world" as far as Washington is concerned...

      1. Michael Habel Silver badge

        Actually the 51st state would / will likely be Porto Rico. As Washington D.C. will never gain such Statehood.

    2. Wzrd1

      "Selling narcotics or fake drugs over the Internet is a serious matter."

      Fair enough, it is a very, very serious matter. One addressed by the federal government, which it was and a federal court of law found Google guilty of making the unlawful process easy and ordered Google to cease and desist.

      Now, a *state* Attorney General seeks to enforce a federal court order? Not his jurisdiction. His jurisdiction is state level and below, with federal matters taken care of by the federal government. the *most* he can do is ask the US Attorney General to look into the matter.*

      The author then goes on about a few thousand dollars here and there, ignoring the ancient bit of old news, that state officials come cheaper than federal officials, county officials coming even cheaper than state officials and those thousands of dollars contributed are remembered.

      In short, what I've said for decades; The United States of America has the best government that money can buy.

      Hell, during the "Robber Baron" era of sparse handful of industrialists having the majority of the money in the nation, they actually did buy themselves the President of their choice, with disastrous long term results.

      I've read the tin foil hat version, I remain in contempt of those poor souls.

      I've read "the enlightened" version of the story.

      Now, I've read this one.

      To be honest, the truth is in the middle between the two least outlandish versions.

      For, an Attorney General is notable for one other thing. The Attorney General *is* an attorney and has many attorneys working under him or her. If legal action is taken against an Attorney General, the state pays for the defense and as those attorneys are getting paid the same to go to trial or sit and surf the internet, the cost isn't all that high. Everyone needed is already on the payroll and drawing their salaries regardless of what they are doing. The only one not to be is the attorney for Google.

      As annotated at the end, the judge tossed the irreparable harm part, meaning no injunction will be issued.

      So, it's reality as usual, a whole lot of bastards working for different corporations playing their usual games. On both sides.

      *I've quite literally lost count of how many times I had to explain my nation's system of government to Europeans and especially to people from the UK. The marvel of the many different systems is universal, the amazement that it works at all is also universal.

      What isn't typically apparent is, all too often, the entire thing lurches to a halt. Usually when one level of government attempts to do the job of a superior level of government.

      Powers not granted the federal government fall to the states. Powers that the states are not granted by their constitutions fall to the counties, eventually to the individual.

      For quite a long time, the entire US Constitution was believed to only grant rights to the governments federal and state (an interesting notion, considering the first handful of amendments), not to mention granting of citizenship and freedom of travel.

      Indeed, before incorporation under the fourteenth amendment, the militia acts (which defined what age men were to be considered members of the militia (hence, how conscripting men for the armed forces operated as a mobilization of the militias) made no sense, as those laws were directed at citizens of the nation and state, but who were not incorporated under the Constitution and federal laws. But then, we've long ignored the hell out of common sense and laws (see the torture bit, as we have signed and ratified treaties, which are the law of the land, per the Constitution). For that matter, in many states and in federal court, it is possible to request a judicial duel, as the federal government never wrote a law against the ancient common law practice and many states did not as well.

      Fortunately, most of my peers are unaware of that fact.

      Really, I'm serious. Out of a joke, I researched the matter. I've hat attorneys confirm it.

      The United States of America, a land where sanity never broached her shores.

      1. fishbone
        Pint

        Top to bottom gibberish of the first order, congratulations on using so many words to say nothing!

    3. cyke1

      That would be all well and good if that was what the case WAS about. It wasn't though, it was MPAA wanting Hood to put pressure on Google over movie piracy. They put the illegal drugs crap in as a smoke screen for what it was really after. Just like how when they tried to push SOPA through they claimed it was focused on things like child pornography, which was the smoke screen for MPAA/RIAA to get blocking of sites in the US on a ISP/DNS level.

      1. Tom 13

        Re: if that was what the case WAS about.

        Wrong. Google want you to believe its about the MPAA and not the drugs even though Hood's got a solid case on the drug angle, and the MPAA actually have a solid legal case against Google.

        As I've posted previously, Google have demonstrated that it is NOT a burden on them to remove links to illegal websites. They do it all the time for the Chinese, and they've even created more complicated algorithms to "downgrade" pirate sites. The only reason most posters here down vote the legal case for the MPAA is because of their hatred for the MPAA. While I have no love for them, I recognize the legal case as separate from them.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      >Selling narcotics or fake drugs over the Internet is a serious matter.

      Not defending the fake drug business, but a lot of people in the US buy REAL drugs online CoD on account of not having the cash or insurance to cover extortionate US costs which are totally stitched up over there - prices are often 3 or 4x higher compared to what we pay here - on private prescriptions or via tax/NHS. Thousands of people are doing serious gaol time for bringing in fairly mundane drugs in from Canada - and millions are dead for want of them.

  4. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Additional source

    I don't know if you want to believe it, but Google's general counsel has claimed on his blog that there is evidence that the subpoena from AG Hood was written by the MPAA's legal firm. Reference:

    http://googlepublicpolicy.blogspot.ca/2014/12/the-mpaas-attempt-to-revive-sopa.html

    Assuming that is to be believed, I think it makes sense that Google took the action that it did.

    That being said, I think that silencing Hood on all matters Google is going a little overboard.

    1. Dick

      Re: Additional source

      See this article:

      http://www.dailytech.com/Mississippi+AG+Drops+AntiGoogle+Subpoena+After+Dirty+MPAA+Ties+Are+Revealed/article37014.htm

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Another balanced article by Orlowski

    Another finely balanced article by Orlowski.

    1. Frank Haney
      Pint

      Re: Another balanced article by Orlowski

      When I read an article I usually just read the article. Occasionally, when I find the article interesting I check who wrote it. It's surprising how often I start reading an anti-Google story, check the author's name and find it's written by Orlowski. There must be more than one writer in the world who has a thing against Google, why doesn't the Register give one of them a chance. Bring a little freshness to the hatred.

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    don't be evil no longer applies ?

  7. John Lilburne

    Remember, remember, ...

    Not so long ago Google used its billions to sue a small record blues company for having the temerity to complain about its links to cyberlockers etc. You know those sites that, now Google has its own pay service, it is de-listing

    http://news.techgenie.com/latest/google-takes-on-the-offensive-sues-record-company/

  8. Rick Brasche

    very good article, thank you, with one minor nitpick

    where it says that elected officials represent the people who elected them, it should be amended to "theoretically".

    1. peter_dtm

      Re: very good article, thank you, with one minor nitpick and one major

      "intelligent progressives" is an oxymoron

      any one claiming 'progresive' in the political sense is

      1) using double think

      2) refusing to acept the reality that almost with out exception 'progressive' policies are at the least bad for the majority of the people. And the poorer your are; the worse the (unintended) consequences tend to be.

    2. FuzzyTheBear

      Re: very good article, thank you, with one minor nitpick

      In the US companies pay for the politicians election campaigns and bills , can anyone seriously think that they don't have to side with their sponsors ? It's no democracy when corporations have as much if not more power than We The People.

    3. Blake St. Claire

      Re: very good article, thank you, with one minor nitpick

      another nitpick: not all state prosecutors are elected.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/State_attorney_general

  9. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    I haven't read everything about this but...

    ...weren't Google concerned about him launching his prosecution/enquiry after 'colluding' with the MPAA, and that he was acting as a pawn for the MPAA rather than working on behalf of the good citizens of Missssssspi? After all, what has misssisssspi got to do with Hollywood?

    Yes, it's worrying when justice depends on who has the most money, but hey, what's new? Isn't that the American Way?

    1. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

      Re: I haven't read everything about this but...

      As they traditionally say -- American justice, the best that money can buy.

      (But, to be fair, not only in America.)

    2. Tom 13

      Re: I haven't read everything about this but...

      That's the lie Google are selling. Problem is, just like MS they have that existing consent decree on drugs. And they're not abiding by it. Which means the Mississippi AG has the right to pursue because it adversely impacts his citizens.

      MPAA saw a chance to throw in with someone else who was going after Google. The AG read their brief, saw it mirrored his and decided it was legally sound. Since they'd already prepared a good piece of paper, he figured why waste scarce Mississippi dollars rewriting it and submitted it substantially as received. Google perceiving a real threat to their money presses have gone to the mattresses.

  10. John G Imrie

    It must be Christmas, there are comments on an Andrew Orlowski article and I'm agreeing with it 100%.

    Happy Christmas.

  11. CYMinCA

    US only?

    dont the new trade agreements rung negotiated allow corporations to compensation for democratically elected governments passing laws which restrict their profitability. Seems very similar.

    Imagine an arms manufacturer suing because governments outlawed land mines which were part of their product range or pharmaceutical rules were tightened causing some drugs to be withdrawn

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

    2. squigbobble

      Re: US only?

      That's exactly what the Investor State Dispute Settlement chunk of TTIP does.

  12. The Bias Is Killing Me

    SOPA dead = good

    I'm glad on Google's position and power on this issue.

    You raise some interesting points about the relationship between big tech and government. But overall the article is so mired in bias that it reads more like a bedtime story than journalism.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Whitewash?

    This article reads like a piece of propaganda. Who wrote it? The MPAA? Anyone with experience of the US drugs market knows that it is a monopoly/cartel. The price of a drug in Canada or much of the rest of the world is less than half the US price. The drugs industry pays the US doctors to prescribe their drugs on occasion. As my US friends say, greed is the american way! The objective of the US government legislation was to prevent the US consumer from buying prescription drugs at reduced prices. The objectives of the entertainment industry are equally to establish monopolies/cartels, hence region coding. Copyright for 250yrs anyone?

    1. gazthejourno (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Whitewash?

      Shut up! They promised us all free Mariah Carey cassettes if we just shilled for them like the corporate MSM! Don't spoil this!

      1. Michael Habel Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: Whitewash?

        Shut up! They promised us all free Mariah Carey cassettes if we just shilled for them like the corporate MSM! Don't spoil this!

        Gee in that case should we spare you, your poor taste in Music?

  14. tony72

    It's all Google's fault

    "Google continued to profit from rogue sites. For example, Google helpfully completed the query "buy oxycodone" into "buy oxycodone online no prescription cod"."

    This translates as "Google continued to do its job as a search engine." If many people enter those search terms in the land of the free, then they ought to be thrown up by autocomplete.

    "Hood asked why, if Google could amend its results in response to governments around the world, it couldn't amend them to protect Mississippians?"

    And the correct answer is that they shouldn't have rolled over to those governments in the first place, although they didn't have much choice. Of course, now we're in a situation where every Tom, Dick and Harry with an ounce of political power thinks they should be able to get Google to manipulate search results to serve whatever hot issue they think will get them some votes. Or sue them for some of their supposedly bottomless funds.

    We really need to get past this whole idea that the solution to every problem is "make Google fix it". Piracy and copyright violations? Google's fault. Kiddie porn? Googles fault. People want to buy prescription drugs? Google's to blame. Somebody broke the law, and now their reputation is damaged. Oh look, it's Google's fault. Give it a rest already.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: It's all Google's fault - Google helpfully completed the query "buy oxycodone"

      Which should make it easy for the FBI or whoever is responsible to find and shut down the relevant sites? If Google makes criminal activity easy to find, perhaps the authorities should stop moaning about Snowden and start using Google as a tool.

    2. keith_w

      Re: It's all Google's fault

      The correct answer is that they should not be advertising illegal drugs, They promised not to but they still are.

      All the google apologists in here should be ashamed of themselves. Mississippi is a STATE, not a province, not a county, they part of the UNITED States, not subsumed by it.

      I dunno why anyone is shocked that google uses rumor, innuendo and threats to get their own way, especially when it comes to politics, everyone else in the US political arena does.

      Google's "do no evil" mantra is long gone.

      1. oldcoder

        Re: It's all Google's fault

        First, they have to be identified as illegal.

        The search results are perfectly valid for Canada.

        And the restriction of drugs is the jurisdiction of the feds. Not a state.

        Second, the author has obviously never lived in Mississippi. The state government has always been the "best money can buy".

    3. sed gawk Bronze badge

      Re: It's all Google's fault

      This translates as "Google continued to do its job as a search engine." If many people enter those search terms in the land of the free, then they ought to be thrown up by autocomplete.

      Your argument suggests that where technical quality is in conflict with the law, that the law should be made to yield. That's not a level playing field, it's flagrant disregard of the law, and if you try it, chances are your feet won't touch the ground.

      And the correct answer is that they shouldn't have rolled over to those governments in the first place, although they didn't have much choice. Of course, now we're in a situation where every Tom, Dick and Harry with an ounce of political power thinks they should be able to get Google to manipulate search results to serve whatever hot issue they think will get them some votes. Or sue them for some of their supposedly bottomless funds.

      Again they should comply with the law, it's a business, and complying with the law in all its insane glory is the cost of doing business.

      We really need to get past this whole idea that the solution to every problem is "make Google fix it".

      Are you for real ? Oh poor 300 billion dollar corporation, complying with the law should be optional for delicate little flowers like Google.

      Piracy and copyright violations? Google's fault.

      Google make money by serving adverts next to content, that means they can choose not to serve a particular market, if it requires they break the law, just like everybody else.

      Kiddie porn? Googles fault. People want to buy prescription drugs? Google's to blame.

      Google publish a list of links, they absolutely are responsible for what makes it on to *their* list. They make money by placing adverts next to content, some of that money will come from objectionable sources, and where it's flat out criminal, they should censor the list and leave the money from putting an advert next to kiddy porn on the table.

      Somebody broke the law, and now their reputation is damaged. Oh look, it's Google's fault. Give it a rest already.

      You don't seem to get how the law works, we as the public get to comply, that's basically the deal. Rightly or wrongly, there is a law which (personally I think is a bit pointless, but nonetheless) requires Search Engines to censor the list for particular keywords, again compliance is not optional for everyone else.

  15. Jason Bloomberg Silver badge
    Facepalm

    Cry me a river

    The rich and powerful have always held trump cards over the small fry; threatening court action will shut most people up.

    And, the end of all that hand-wringing, we find the case was thrown out, justice was done, no one was actually silenced.

  16. Graham Marsden
    Thumb Down

    Ok, so...

    ... I've just read a three-page article which seems long on conjecture and hyperbole, but rather short on facts.

    (Actually I didn't even notice the byline until I was about four paragraphs into reading it and then thought "Hang on, this sounds like [scrolls up] yep, it's Orlowski."

    Let's ignore the rhetoric such as "assassinating" and "silenced" and the background which is interesting, but possibly a little over-done and see what it actually says;

    Oh, right. Businesses who have vested interests like to get media outlets to publish stories which are favourable to them. Just like elected politicians do (such as State Prosecutors who like to prosecute high-profile, media-friendly cases against kidnappers, paedophiles and such which boost their profile and, thus, their re-election chances) and just like Big Media do by trying to redefine copyright infringement as "theft".

    All the rest of it seems to be Andrew bashing his favourite targets (Obama, people who object to excessive copyright enforcement and DCM and those who want laws to be proportionate rather than overbearing).

    At least it was published as "comment" (which is only one step above "opinion")...

    1. Diogenes

      Re: Ok, so...

      If you want a longer article may I suggest "Stonewalled" by Sharyl Attkisson (don't just dismiss her as just being a republican shill because "blog x says so" ) @432 pages enough for you? You can see google applying the same tactics to Hood as the Feds do to investigative reporters.

      Given the links between the administration & google is anybody surprised ?

  17. Old Used Programmer

    Who pays the piper?

    Seems to me that Hood's first (and big) mistake was assuming that those who do Google searches are Google's customers.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Who pays the piper?

      I take you mean instead of Google's product.

    2. Dr.S

      Re: Who pays the piper?

      That's not a mistake; it is one of the most effective basic arguments available to a man of Hood's agenda. When constructing a successful legal case you have to play a persuasive tune and make the relevant people dance to it. As to who pays the Piper, well that would be the tax payers.

    3. Tom 13

      Re: Who pays the piper?

      Quite the opposite. Hood seems to be assuming the illegal drug sales outfits are Google's customers, just like the illegal file sharing sites. And he'd be correct. Which DOES make Google evil.

  18. Chris G Silver badge

    Barges

    If Google buys more barges instead of scrapping them, they can get enough to build their own island in the Caribbean then they can tell the States they have no jurisdiction over them as well. Clearly they already think they are above US law so they might as well be outside it as well.

    It's probably too late but lobbying and litigating at the megacorp level needs to be much more tightly regulated world wide, they are now directly threatening the idea of democracy and certainly stifling the true process of democracy on an almost daily basis.

    I dislike overbearing business as much as overbearing government and neither of them spell anything good for us peasants.

    1. DarkWalker

      Re: Barges

      In Brazil, there is an interesting judgment ongoing in our Supreme Court to decide if it's legal for companies to contribute to political campaigns. If the expected result of declaring such contributions illegal is reached, any politician taking money from companies for political campaigns from that point onwards will lose his or her mandate.

      Seeing the resulting political landscape ought to be interesting.

  19. banjomike

    Google are power-crazed control freaks

    I am SO shocked...

    Does anyone still believe in "Don't be evil"?

  20. Salmon Guy

    What a great article. My knee jerk reaction was, "OMG, this is another anti-google smear". However, once I read past the first page...you can only surmise that this is a well written article, based upon well researched facts.

    Here is the problem though; we are all generally very nervous about our freedom. All kinds of freedom, but in this particular case, the freedom that Google champions, i.e that there should be no creeping censorship, that the internet should remain uncontrolled.

    We feel that our freedom is being eroded by government, encouraged by those OTHER companies who have been making super-normal profits for a decade (Energy, Cable, Entertainment).

    At a time when Google is seemingly being attacked from all sides, here comes a government official (which he is by any other name), and attacks from another side.

    Moreover, he fundamentally attacks from the standpoint that Google should be censoring search results. On top of this he seems to play weak cards ("think of the children") that we can only assume are design to produce an unreasoned, emotive public opinion response, against Google. That is insulting.

    If Hood had come to the table with something that was validly in the public interest, then I for one may have listened more. However, despite all of the reasoned, researched and balanced points of this article, the facts against Hood still remain.

    1. YetAnotherLocksmith

      If the prosecutor is checking if a company is ding as orders by a court, isn't that what is supposed to happen?

      If I get a court order against you, you really don't have the option of just ignoring it because it's a bit hard or you don't feel like it.

      Sounds like this prosecutor was doing just that, and found that Google weren't doing as ordered, so when he asked why they were taking the proverbial, they sued to shut him up.

      I can only assume Google will get a big slap from whichever court made the original order.

      1. Tom 13

        @ YetAnotherLocksmith

        Google might get a little slap from the court above the one issuing the original order, but it's a safe bet the judge issuing the original order is bought and paid for by Google. That's sort of Andrew's point about how much traceable money Google is spending on pols these days.

    2. sed gawk Bronze badge

      Moreover, he fundamentally attacks from the standpoint that Google should be censoring search results.

      They should comply with the orders of the court, it's really not optional for the rest of us.

  21. Mark 85 Silver badge

    Good article

    It's good to see a counter-point to the previous article: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2014/12/20/google_mpaa_mississippi/

    Corporate America is out of control. I'm still questioning the use of purloined documents but that's a minor issue. The corporations have been running the US since the early days of this country. Newspapers, railroads, oil barons... all the way back to the beginning. Google, et al, are just extensions of this. Manipulate the masses and get what you want: profit and power.

    By a logical extension, if Google has no problem with carrying links to illegal narcotics, what about... say "hit men"? Yes, there's a slippery slope here about freedoms, etc. One either has to draw a line or not. It's a troubling issue and in a global sense, even moreso. as the line can be moved about for censorship.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Good article

      The difference is that around 1909 the Government of the US managed to pass laws which were designed to attack cartels and monopolists, and up until about 1990 these laws were occasionally effective (e.g. the Bell breakup).

      Since the US economy started its long march to China, US governments have been increasingly worried about anything that might encourage US corporations to relocate abroad. I have the feeling that the current view from the Capitol is that cartels and monopolies are OK so long as they are our cartels and monopolies, while everybody else must have their markets opened to US businesses.

    2. Number6

      Re: Good article

      Personally I think Google are doing law enforcement a favour. If it's illegal to buy prescription drugs over the internet in the US then it should be trivial for law enforcement to use Google to search for such sites. If the sites are overseas then they can go to the courts in the countries concerned and request a court order to be able to go through the books of said companies and extract the details of all the US residents who have done business with them. Of course, this means doing it through proper legal channels, which I understand is not always popular.

      One could also ask why prescription drugs cost so much in the US that it is cheaper to get them from elsewhere. Who's being ripped off here?

      1. Gannon (J.) Dick
        Thumb Down

        Re: Good article

        " Re: Good article

        Personally I think Google are doing law enforcement a favour."

        Huh ? I thought the Public was doing Law Enforcement a favour by giving them paychecks for work which might prove extraordinarly dangerous. You must mean that Google is helping the Public with that responsibility. Oh. They aren't.

    3. David 164

      Re: Good article

      Google have already inform Sony and it legal firms to save the documents and be prepare for legal requests to obtain the documents. So whilst the original info may have from purloined documents, Google is looking at seizing those documents legally from Sony, it law firms and possible MPAA.

  22. Nick Kew Silver badge

    The mote in your eye

    If you're condemning Google for bringing a lawsuit when it has more billions than its opponent, then must you not by the same argument condemn every civil lawsuit? At least, every lawsuit in a country such as the US or UK with a prohibitively expensive adversarial legal system?

    Actually I'm with you there: there is no fairness in these innocent until proven broke legal systems. But we're lumped with them, so either you use them or you foreswear the law altogether. The second option isn't really open to Google, because people bring lawsuits against them. The primary culprit is a hopelessly corrupt legal system that invites abuse.

    Now, this particular case pits the resources of a bigco against those of a state. Neither party is devoid of resources. Neither party is foreign, which all-too-often influences US courts and is associated with some of the most monstrous injustices (think: NTP vs RIM, or the fate of BP vs that of Union Carbide). Insofar as a US lawsuit can ever be a fair fight, this looks fair.

    I make no comment on the merits of the case itself. On that subject I remain ignorant: I don't think either this or the earlier article in El Reg gives me sufficient insight to pronounce a verdict.

    Shouldn't there be a scales-of-justice smiley? Damn!

  23. Aedile

    I don't think it's OK for attorney generals, who are supposed to represent the public, to be acting on behalf of a business or an industry group, regardless of their adversary's size. It was compounded by the appearance that the prosecution was essentially outsourced to competitors. Per the NY Times article in the comment: "they assigned a team of lawyers to prepare draft subpoenas and legal briefs for the attorneys general. And the groups have delivered campaign contributions". Other articles I've read discuss how the MPAA's law firm actually coached the AGs as to what questions to ask and provided talking points.

    Some people however feel such actions are acceptable given Google's dominance. AG Hood likes to say Google could do more and cites the things it does voluntarily. However, it doesn't matter if it could do more; the truth of the matter is there is nothing that says they must. The AG and some people want Google to live up to their personal moral code which would be great if we all had the same moral code. Unfortunately we don't. So if the complaint is Google should do more then we should adjust the law instead of trying to punish them for not doing more when simply asked.

    The only thing certain is that whether or not you believe the AG should or shouldn't be getting such direct "help" or that Google is so big such "help" is warranted it will continue to create strong opinions both for and against.

    1. keith_w

      Economics 101 and morals

      Companies hire people to do things. They pay them money. The people and the companies both pay taxes, which in turn, among other things, pays the Attorney-General and his staff. If companies can't make money doing the things they do, then they will not hire people to do them. Therefore, no taxes will get paid, and neither will the Attorney-General and his staff. Nor will all of the other things the taxes pay for. And that is why the Attorney-General acts on behalf of companies and industry groups.

      As for Moral/Ethical code, Googles', is/was "Do no evil". If you have ever known anyone who uses oxycodone, you would recognize that enabling easy access to purchase the drug over the internet is enabling evil. I don't know about you but personally I think that dealing drugs is pretty evil no matter how it gets done.

      1. sed gawk Bronze badge

        Re: Economics 101 and morals

        Drugs are not evil. They are contra indicated for some people and in some cases contribute to poor decision making. The issue is most drug users quietly go about their business preferring not to become an anti-prohibition lighting rod at the cost of their liberty, livelihood and family.

        Hence the main visible cohort of drug users are the problematic ones.

        I'm a bit too old now to have much personal interest in the issue, but anecdotally I know several people with unimpeachable morals, good decent people, who like to consume drugs, which they fund by working in responsible jobs. I'm sure you know some people just them, though given your stance I'm sure you'll forgive them for not being entirely forthcoming.

        We actually devote significant resources to keeping the dodgy people in business, we lock up their competition, thus we ensured that the people willing to take stolen goods in exchange for narcotics are still in business, can you imagine boots/wall mart/${big_corp} doing the same? In case the point is too subtle, we collectively subsidize the illegal industry by keeping it from being required to pay taxes and file accounts.

        Why not take the morality out of it, help the needy of all stripes and tax the consumption and sale of narcotics in a sensible manner, rather than the current taxpayer subsidy of the illegal industry?

        Final thoughts, in my country, the U.K. it's easier for a kid to buy weed than it is for the same kid to buy a beer. That seems like a pretty good argument for making it all legal, and easy to control.

    2. Tom 13

      @Aedile

      Never quote the New York Times as a reliable source. The National Enquirer is more reliable.

      If you're a lawyer, and a good one, you quickly learn that you can only specialize in one area. So if you are to be effective you defer to and rely on other lawyers who are experts in areas where they are more expert. If the AG believes the MPAA have a valid case for protecting IP, and he he has a tight budget, using the expert lawyers of the MPAA is exactly the course I would expect him to pursue. Especially if his focus is on a parallel issue of illegal drugs on which he already has a consent decree. He wants to first prove the drug charges to the court, then show similar behavior with respect to IP, and argue to the courts that something stronger than the current remedy is required.

  24. Beachrider

    Having 50 goverments and a federal government, too...

    It isn't easy to deal with 50 state governments, with their contradictory approaches to issues. Surprising things are legal in some states (Colorado Cannabis anyone?) and 10 years of jail in others. I am not long term fan of Google (at all), but doing business in all 50 states is very tricky.

    Google didn't shut this guy down, they just closed of an avenue of prosecution. It really wouldn't be hard for him to attempt another perspective, but he might risk 'summary judgement' where MS ends up paying Google's legal expenses to defend the perspective.

    In the American Legal System, virtually ANYTHING can be run in Civil courts, if all you want is money.

  25. LDS Silver badge

    Google knows what a lot of people want...

    Free movies and music? Cheap drugs? Google knows most people are as much avid as its executives. It knows they will support whatever behaviour - barely lawful or totally unlawful - which will give 'em the free/cheap stuff they're looking for, while making a lot of money on their searches and their data.

    You see it here. Say something againt Google, and you get a lot of downvotes - a lot of people think Google is "good", because they need it to do what they like. Compare it with the attitude toward Microsoft, which of course is bad just because it wants money for its software and doesn't let you access illegal contents easily.

    Google knows people psychology.

    In some ways, it's a huge social engineering company. It knows how to exploit people while making them think it's on their side. Greed and avidity are huge, powerful levers. Fulfill people greed - in a way that doesn't cost you nothing, as linking pirated contents sites or illegal sales of drugs (it will change when Google buys a movie studio or pharma company...) - and you get a lot of allies on your side to keep on with your murky business.

    And you can't discuss with such people. All they can see is the "free" movie to watch, the new "free" song to download, some cheap drug to "feel better". Their horizon is that, their little, empty world, which Google knows how to fill... and they don't care about anything else. They are as selfish as Google itself...

    1. I Am Spartacus
      Happy

      Re: Google knows what a lot of people want...

      "Say something againt Google, and you get a lot of downvotes", And hey, you got a down vote. Presumably by someone who had to google "avidity".

      So have an upvote to balance it out

  26. Matthew Saroff
    FAIL

    Great Googly Moogly

    Seriously.

    The Sony leaks (which is why I am glad that someone published them) specifically reveals that the MPAA is looking to delist what it calls offenders from DNS, that the AG in question was literally cutting and pasting MPAA position papers on official letterhead, and he has received thousands of dollars in campaign and in kind donations (The MPAA's counsel has been advising him) from the MPAA.

    While I am not asserting actual legal corruption, it's clear that Jim Hood is acting as an agent for the MPAA, probably in consideration of the proverbial "Player to be Named Later."

    The MPAA is clearly venue shopping, and Google's counter-suit, which has was law 101.

    1. Hud Dunlap
      Boffin

      Re: Great Googly Moogly

      Ok so he got thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. What did his opponent get? Most of the big donors play both sides.

      1. P. Lee Silver badge

        Re: Great Googly Moogly

        >Ok so he got thousands of dollars in campaign contributions.

        Close to the point. He compromised himself by taking the money and he compromised himself by using a commercial lobby group's opinion rather than formulating his own. At that point, he's put himself on one side of a vicious commercial battle. He shouldn't have been there, wearing the MPAA's colours.

        The fact that we only found out about it due to a crack is disconcerting.

        Don't take bribes. Don't take things which could be construed as bribes.

        1. Sandtitz Silver badge

          Re: Great Googly Moogly @P.Lee

          "He compromised himself by taking the money" and

          "Don't take bribes. Don't take things which could be construed as bribes."

          He did compromise himself as you write. Then again if he didn't take the money from any sources he wouldn't be the state AG and the guy who did take the money would be. Does taking money from any organization invalidate the AG's capacity to handle cases concerning the donating parties? And if it's an umbrella organization is the AG powerless against all companies/individuals under it?

          I'm not a US citizen so please educate if I have failed to understand the situation.

          As I understand this, the quoted figure of $2,500 is a puny amount when his latest AG campaign in 2011 received $1.7M in donations, and the biggest donations clearly came from law firms/organizations. Then again that's $2.5k is 2% of his annual salary so it isn't "chickenfeed" either.

    2. This post has been deleted by its author

  27. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Don't be naive

    My late father summed up the situation well. "You can obtain all the justice you can afford in America". Microsucks is a perfect example of a company that has more power than the U.S. Dept. of Justice and that is because they have enough money to buy all the justice they desire.

  28. Alan Brown Silver badge

    yeah right

    The most damning allegation in Google's complaints revolve around breaches of federal laws.

    If proven, Hood's going to spend time in Club Fed. It's no wonder he's backing off, given the evidence for the claims came from FOIA disclosures, not from any of the Sony hacks - although what's coming out of that wee mess(*) is "interesting" in an ancient chinese proverb sense.

    I don't think Google are in a mood to play nice anymore. They repeatedly did what the MPAA demanded (and more besides) to be screamed at that they "weren't doing enough, dammit". At some point you realise that "appeasement" isn't going to work and you have to swat that annoying bug.

    That war chest would as easily be deployed to buy and shut down most of Hollywood or the recording industry - and still could be.

    (*)The code might well have NK origins, but the attacks are more likely to have a domestic USA skiddie group behind them than The Glorious Lardbutt.

  29. DougS Silver badge

    Not sure who to hate here

    So to be safe, I'll hate 'em both.

    1. Tom 13

      Re: Not sure who to hate here

      But there are three players in this scenario.

      1. LazarusLong

        Re: Not sure who to hate here

        > But there are three players in this scenario.

        The third being MPAA + Hood?

  30. Peter 39

    Amazon is not "Silicon Valley"

    "The current US administration has been remarkably generous to Silicon Valley. Obama's administration treats Big Tech as generously as Bush's treated Big Oil. Google staffers can be found at all levels of this administration, and Google is a significant campaign funding contributor.

    It's not just Google. The Department of Justice handed Amazon a very favourable settlement in its "price fixing" case against publishers. The order handed Amazon something very valuable: a retail monopoly (technically, a "monopsony")."

    Uh, no. It gave Silicon Valley, Apple to be specific, a raw deal. And this was to the benefit, as you say, of Amazon which hails from Washington state. Your premise might be correct but your example contradicts it.

  31. Steve Evans

    a-ha!

    I knew something wasn't right when the verge posted a pro Google article!

  32. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Welcome to the Jungle

    This world is like spaghetti. Tracing the real intention from all parties can be a daunting task. Generally, clearly NO ONE has good intention in doing the right thing except to make profit for themselves at the expense of any side effect. Google does not care about their users, they want to be the CA of the world (chrome putting http sites as insecured), and they want to own the car's market :(. Seriously, did they studied history ? (See Napoleon and Hitler's mistakes on expansion). I don't know what to hate more, Microsoft or Google ... They can blind the world all they want but not in the eyes of God. Screw them ...

  33. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Above the law

    Let's say google or any other too big to fail corporation starts selling new born babies to rich couples, say they start selling human organs, say they have slaves working for them. Would that be their demise? Or a hefty fine and an honest word never to do it again would do to carry on business as usual?

    Small corporations have been shutdown for far less is all I'm saying.

  34. Chad H.

    >>>>In the US, citizens vote for their state prosecutors – they're elected representatives, not nominees. They answer to the people

    That is the myth of American Democracy. Now lets look at that statement through the EyeOfTruth(tm)

    >>>>In the US, citizens vote for their state prosecutors through choices the established powers have pre-decided – they're "elected" representatives, not nominees and not independent. They answer to the people who fund their election campaign.

  35. DDearborn

    Hmmm

    The last time I looked Google was not some faceless "Multi-National" it is effectively controlled by a handful of people. I find it interesting that no where in this discussion are their names raised. Nor any discussion put forth regarding their political and ideological leanings. In the case of Google, accountability rests with this small group, so why isn't the media holding them accountable? In fact why does the Media always fail to hold PEOPLE accountable when discussing Multi-Nationals?

  36. Tom 13

    Re: why do intelligent progressives

    Because like unicorns, there are no such creatures.

  37. This post has been deleted by a moderator

  38. Andus McCoatover
    Windows

    Selling narcotics or fake drugs over the Internet is a serious matter?

    Not necessarily....

    Just think 'Merkan for a second.

    "Selling" becomes "Enhanced Gifting". There. Legal. Fixed it for ya.

    Simples.

  39. opiwan

    these are the reasons I do not use anything Google. I do not like dictators and I smell a rat with Google.

  40. disgruntled yank Silver badge

    Minor point

    Yes, Mississippi is the poorest of the states. But under the Constitution its official acts are entitled to full faith and credit from all the other states. A previous attorney general, Michael Moore, skinned the tobacco companies, which plenty of legal help, for an astonishing amount of money. So let's not exaggerate the imbalance of power.

  41. ecofeco Silver badge

    Google's at fault?

    Uh, no. Google did what it should have done: stop a state servant from overstepping their bounds and abusing the power of their office.

  42. eulampios
    Devil

    Merry Christmas!

    to Andrew Orlowski! A Happy New Year, dear moderator!

    Good job, you guys/gals/lads. Still there is room for a little improvement, to which I am eagerly looking forward!

  43. Andus McCoatover
    Windows

    Thanks

    Food for thought from El-Reg. To be devoured and the bones picked over at home. Appreciated.

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