Google demands movie studios comply with subpoenas

Reuters News
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Posted: Jun 02, 2015 11:56 AM

By Jonathan Stempel

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Google Inc <GOOGL.O> has asked a federal judge to require three major movie studios to comply with subpoenas it believes may help show they conspired with Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood as he investigated the Internet search company.

In a request made public on Tuesday in Manhattan federal court, Google said Viacom Inc <VIAB.O>, Twenty-First Century Fox Inc <FOXA.O> and Comcast Corp's <CMSCA.O> NBCUniversal "have produced nothing" in response to the March 12 subpoenas, and cannot claim the requested material is irrelevant or privileged.

Google sued Hood, a longtime critic, last Dec. 19 in Mississippi to block his probe of whether it should be held civilly or criminally responsible for encouraging sales of objectionable materials, such as illegal drugs and pornography, through its search engine and YouTube video-sharing website.

As part of that case, the Mountain View, California-based company accused Hood of effectively being a pawn for the Motion Picture Association of America, whose members it said "have spent years pursuing an anti-Google agenda" as the group tries to halt the distribution of pirated videos on the Internet.

Viacom, Twenty-First Century Fox and NBCUniversal are among the MPAA's six members.

The subpoenas issued in connection with the Mississippi case seek communications with Hood, communications with other state attorneys general about Google and information about studios' campaign donations to Hood and the Democratic Attorneys General Association. Hood is a Democrat.

"Google subpoenaed the studios for information about behind-the-scenes maneuvering that fomented AG Hood's violations of Google's constitutional and federal rights," the company said in a court filing. "Given the narrow window afforded for discovery in this case, Google can wait no longer."

Nathaniel Brown, a spokesman for Twenty-First Century Fox, declined to comment. Viacom, NBCUniversal and the MPAA did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Hood's office had no immediate comment.

Google's lawsuit against Hood is pending in federal court in Jackson, Mississippi.

Without ruling on the merits, U.S. District Judge Henry Wingate in Jackson on March 27 found a "substantial likelihood" that Hood violated Google's First Amendment rights by regulating the company's speech based on its content, and retaliated for that speech by having issued a 79-page subpoena to Google in October.

The case is Google Inc v. Twenty-First Century Fox Inc et al, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York, No. 15-mc-00150. The Mississippi case is Google Inc v. Hood, U.S. District Court, Southern District of Mississippi, No. 14-00981.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Dan Grebler)