In what may become one of the more important legal decisions of the decade, Google is fast tracking a judicial ruling in Mississippi that could provide Google with immunity from local and state investigation of possible illegal activity. That's right. If you have a grievance with Google you'll need to go to the federal government to initiate legal action.
It started last October when Attorney General Jim Hood sent Google a 79 page subpoena, which according to the New York Times, was asking Google for records pertaining to advertising and search results for controlled substances and stolen credit card numbers.
So far, Google has refused to cooperate and is challenging Attorney General Hoods right to subpoena the tech giant and his motivation for doing so. Based in large part on leaked documents from the recent hacking of Sony Pictures Entertainment data, Google is also claiming that the attorney general is in fact pursuing this course of action on behalf of the MPAA.
Citing these leaked documents from the recent hacking of Sony Pictures, the New York Times ran a story last December that alluded to Mr Hood's relationship to the MPAA, implying that he may have been 'overly' influenced by the movie industry trade organization in his pursuit of Google:
"Together, the emails show the extent of the efforts with state attorneys general. The messages detail how the Motion Picture Association of America -- the Hollywood industry group -- and an organization backed by Microsoft, Expedia and Oracle, among others, have aggressively lobbied attorneys general to build cases against Google in recent years..."
Two days later, on December 19th, a follow up story ran in the New York Times. Google had decided to file a a lawsuit with the federal court in Mississippi, against Mr. Hood, questioning his authority as a State Attorney General to subpoena Google in what they perceived as an attempt to regulate Internet search providers:
"The lawsuit Google filed on Friday accused Mr. Hood of violating federal law and requested that he be prevented from enforcing his subpoena.
It also accused Mr. Hood of essentially acting as a pawn for the M.P.A.A., arguing that Mr. Hood "took these actions following a sustained lobbying effort from the Motion Picture Association of America."
The gloves were off and even the pugnacious Attorney General saw the necessity for calling for a cease fire in the face of strong opposition from the super power.
"In a statement, Mr. Hood said Google was using its deep pockets in an attempt to "stop the State of Mississippi for daring to ask some questions.' Nevertheless, he said he would call the company and try to work out a deal'."
Apparently, the two sides were unable to reach an agreement. On Tuesday, in Jackson Mississippi, U.S. District Judge Henry T. Wingate will rule on whether Mr Hood, as State Attorney General, has the right to enforce his subpoena and have representatives from Google testify in a Mississippi Court Room.
"Hood is being supported by attorneys general from Arizona, Connecticut, Illinois, Kentucky, Maryland, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Oregon, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.
In a brief written by the Kentucky attorney general's office, those officials say that if Google wins, it will hurt all states' ability to investigate.
'It also could jeopardize each and every attorney general's ability to investigate and enforce violations of his or her state's consumer protection laws by Google or any other company hosting internet content, thereby jeopardizing each and every attorney general's ability to protect the public from false, misleading and deceptive business practices by such companies,' the brief states."
As is so often the case, Google doesn't want to testify about possible violations from search and in their advertising placement services, because it would violate their right to 'Free Speech'.