Why Hollywood Battles Google Over Illegal Prescription Drug Sales is Released
You might have heard the news: “Hollywood Battles Google Over Illegal Prescription Drug Sales.” It’s true. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) is going after Google because it claims the search engine is helping web users to find and order illegal drugs. In truth, the MPAA could probably not care less about Google’s relationship with websites that market illicit drugs. What it does care about is how Google treats websites that sell bootleg movies and pirated music.
Emails recently hacked from Sony suggest that the MPAA is pressuring state attorneys general to investigate Google for search listings, online ads and videos that push illegal drugs. The emails suggest that Google has been “facilitating content theft” and “making it easy to illegally buy drugs and steroids, stolen credit cards, counterfeit passports and other fake documents.” Google and the MPAA are presently dialoguing with officials in Mississippi to determine whether a lawsuit can move forward.
The only question is why the MPAA cares about Google’s involvement in the marketing of illicit drugs The answer is that it doesn’t. It cares about online copyright enforcing and getting tough about movies traded illegally. The MPAA is merely using the drug angle to force Google to change the way it works into a way that benefits the financial interests of the MPAA. Winning this action would create precedents that the MPAA could eventually use to go after Google for search engine listings and websites that sell bootleg copies of feature films.
A Justice Department investigation a few years back found that Google was helping overseas pharmacies to illegally sell prescription drugs in the U.S. Google paid $500 million to resolve the matter. Now, with the search engine under scrutiny again, it’s not surprising that state attorneys general are listening to the MPAA and questioning Google’s behavior once again.
The MPAA wants to change Google Search’s autocomplete feature so that it bypasses certain websites and eliminates other websites from search results. According to Kate Bedingfield, spokeswoman for the MPAA, “these are things Google can do to tackle sites that traffic in illegal content of all kinds, whether it’s illegal pharmaceuticals or bootleg movies and TV shows.”
State attorneys general have little power over copyright complaints, but because they are consumer advocates, they are sympathetic to complaints involving fraud and safety issues that could threaten the public. The online availability of illegal drugs is an issue they can run with. Public opinion is also more sympathetic to the dangers of online illegal drug availability than it is to pirating films and music. Additionally, by focusing on illicit online drug sales, the MPAA gains the support of American pharmaceutical companies.
Basically, the MPAA wants Google to remove entire websites and eliminate other websites from search results. By banishing websites that market illegal drugs, the MPAA is setting the stage to force Google to eliminate websites that violate copyrights. The story that Hollywood battles Google over illegal prescription drug sales generates a lot more interest than the story that Hollywood battles Google over websites that violate copyrights.