Google slams Hollywood plot to 'censor the Internet' by reviving the Stop Online Piracy Act
Laptop computer with crime scene tape across it (Shutterstock)

Google has accused Hollywood of attempting to “secretly censor the internet” by reviving the failed Stop Online Piracy Act ( Sopa ) to enable wholesale site-blocking.

The search company alleges that Hollywood studios, through the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), conspired to push through the effects of Sopa through non-legislative measures.

“We are deeply concerned about recent reports that the MPAA led a secret, coordinated campaign to revive the failed Sopa legislation through other means, and helped manufacture legal arguments in connection with an investigation by Mississippi state attorney-general Jim Hood,” said Kent Walker, general counsel for Google in a blog post .

SOPA defeated

Sopa was a bill put before the US House of Representatives intended to significantly expand the powers of US authorities to combat online trafficking in copyrighted and counterfeited goods.

The sweeping act gave companies that claimed their intellectual property was being infringed the power to request court orders to forbid advertising networks such as Google, as well as payment facilities, from conducting business with infringing sites.

Complainants could also ban search engines from linking to allegedly infringing sites and obtain court orders requiring internet service providers (ISPs) to block access to those sites.

Sopa was defeated in 2012 despite the backing of the MPAA following a public outcry that prompted some 115,000 websites, including Google, to protest against the act. Ten million people signed a petition against Sopa, while 8m made phone calls to Congress and a further 4m sent emails.

‘Why is it trying to secretly censor the internet?’

Google cited news reports that accused the MPAA and six studios of colluding to “begin a new campaign to figure how it could secretly revive Sopa” and “to achieve wholesale site-blocking by [convincing] state prosecutors to take up the fight against [Google]”.

In Britain, copyright holders can seek court orders to force ISPs to block access to sites they deem as infringing copyright. Sites including the notorious Pirate Bay have been blocked in the UK since 2012.

The movie studios reportedly provided $500,000 a year in legal support, which was increased to $1.175 million for this “campaign”.

Google also detailed how the MPAA then convinced the Mississippi attorney-general to support the action, including sending an accusing letter to Google drafted by the MPAA’s law firm Jenner & Block but signed by Hood.

Hood then sent a “sweeping 79-page subpoena” for topics he lacked jurisdiction for, according to Google.

“While we of course have serious legal concerns about all of this, one disappointing part of this story is what this all means for the MPAA itself, an organisation founded in part ‘to promote and defend the First Amendment and artists’ right to free expression’. Why, then, is it trying to secretly censor the internet?” Walker asked in his blog post.

• Google ‘plays hardball’ in Spanish news row © Guardian News and Media 2014