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Sony Pictures email hack: The bitter 'piracy war' between Google and Hollywood laid bare

Top management at Chocolate Factory fuming at MPAA pokes

Picard Facepalm

Emails obtained after the Sony Pictures hacking attack have revealed just how badly the Motion Picture Ass. of America has been cocking up its fight against piracy.

One set of leaked conversations, spotted by TorrentFreak, occurred between Sony studio executives talking about the problem of Google searches showing links to pirated content. This has long been a source of irritation for media giants, but when Google tried to help, the response wasn't great.

In August, Google started voluntarily shifting links to pirate booty much further down in its rankings, based on the number of valid notices of copyright infringement notices it had received for a given web page.

The day before it announced this change, Google sent an email to MPAA head Chris Dodd tipping him off about the search algorithm tweak. But if the ad goliath was expecting gratitude, it was mistaken.

"Everyone shares a responsibility to help curb unlawful conduct online, and we are glad to see Google acknowledging its role in facilitating access to stolen content via search," snarked the MPAA in a passive-aggressive press release.

The response from Google was shocked anger. The search biz reckoned it had bent over backwards to accommodate the MPAA, but instead the industry body had pissed on its cornflakes, it seems.

"At the highest levels [Google is] extremely unhappy with our statement," the MPAA told Sony Pictures contacts in an email.

"[Google] conveyed that they feel as if they went above and beyond what the law requires; that they bent over backwards to give us a heads up and in return we put out a 'snarky' statement that gave them no credit for the positive direction."

As a result of the MPAA's actions, Google said that it would have nothing further to do with the industry pressure group and that if studios wanted to talk to the search giant, they would need to do so directly.

The MPAA emails explained that the reason for its snarky tone was because it wasn't sure if Google's system would work. If it didn’t, the group didn’t want to be seen to support a failed solution. In addition, the timing was wrong for the MPAA.

“We were also sensitive to the fact that Mississippi [Attorney General] Hood is expected to issue a [Civil Investigative Demand] to Google sometime this week; we did not want an unduly favorable statement by us to discourage AG Hood from moving forward,” the MPAA email states.

It's not known if the MPAA is still on Google's naughty step but it's clear that its attempts to run an anti-piracy campaign are just as ham-fisted in private as they are in public.

Meanwhile, the same batch of swiped internal emails has apparently revealed efforts by the MPAA to hire lawyers and lobby US state attorneys general to attack Google on movie piracy search results – something the New York Times touched on in October. ®

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