Just four days back, we saw a group naming themselves as GOP hack Sony Pictures in one of the biggest data heists this years. Over 40 GB of data was stolen in the initial phase, and the most recent attack saw hundreds of gigabytes of data being taken off from the company's servers. And what that data consists of is of even greater importance. Not only did the hackers manage to get personal information about celebrities and release several movies in HD before their scheduled released date, they also managed to uncover a conspiracy of sorts.
According to the data leaked, it seems that all major studios are united against piracy, and they wont hesitate taking any measures to win their battles, even if it means restricting the internet and targeting the untargettable; Google. Yes. You read that correct. According to data received by The Verge, all major studios allegedly created a fund of sorts to initiate legal action against search giant Google. And thats just the start of it.
All major studios including Universal, Sony, Fox, Paramount, Warner Bros., and Disney and the MPAA have become united in their efforts against one enemy: Goliath. For them, the objective is clear. Take Goliath down and you get complete control of data shared on the internet. How they hope to achieve that is another matter. The strategy to take down Goliath and stop piracy broadly involves three major phases, according to the leaked emails, analyzed in detail by The Verge.
The first step is to work with state attorney generals and ISPs to give the studios greater control over what content is distributed over the internet. As MPAA's general counsel Steven Fabrizio aptly puts it in one of the emails, "We start from the premise that site blocking is a means to an end. There may be other equally effective measures ISPs can take, and that they might be more willing to take voluntarily."
The emails suggest that Hollywood hasn't given up on the idea of curbing piracy through taking down sites, after the most recent attempt to do so didn't work out through SOPA. After SOPA's failure, studios are looking at new methods to make the spirit of the act work, and are considering potential public relations' backlash as well. One of the ways in which studios intend to achieve that is to go above the need to prove ISP's guilt in copyright infringement and require court orders directly to block websites with content sharing policies in conflict with their interests.
"We have been exploring theories under the All Writs Acts, which, unlike DMCA 512(j), would allow us to obtain court orders requiring site blocking without first having to sue and prove the target ISPs are liable for copyright infringement," -Fabrizio
All that would be easy, if there wasn't one major nemesis standing in the studios' way. Aptly named as Goliath, the emails highlight a joint effort by the studios to take down one major hurdle in their way, which brings us to the second phase in their alleged plan. Taking Goliath down itself involves several steps. The first of these is getting several Attorney Generals on board to take action against this adversary. After all, 'Goliath' has crossed a lot of lines, not only with the studios, but also with the AGs themselves.
According to Fabrizio, "Goliath has told the AGs to pound sand…they pretty clearly told the AGs that they aren’t going to do anything and essentially threatened the AGs with the possibility of attacking them as they attacked folks in DC during SOPA. The AGs did not like that" Out of the $500, 000 fund allocated by the studios for their war against Goliath, $40,000 a month has gone to former US Associate Attorney General Thomas J. Perrelli, who is also a partner at Jenner & Block.
As for Goliath's identity, several discussions refer to the entire plan as Project Goliath, with one email titled 'Goliath Data Summary' which comes with an attachment titled, "Search Engine Piracy Discussion (MPAA Discussion)", which suggest that Goliath might indeed be a code word for Google. In several other places, the search engine giant sees its name used directly. These include references to its anti-piracy reactions in October.
Another project called Keystone also saw several proposals in the emails leaked. Keystone is the second stage in taking Goliath down, and is the investigative branch of the operation. It involves gathering evidence against the nemesis to provide ammunition to the state AGs to use against Goliath. There is only so far we can get with the AG’s unless we develop better evidence and intelligence against Goliath," an email reads, "and that is the budget for Keystone." What is the budget for Keystone? A modest $70, 000.
As Fabrizio puts it, "We’ve had success to date in motivating the AGs; however as they approach the CID phase, the AGs will need greater levels of legal support." This 'motivation' will come in two forms, either through legal assistance of the AGs, through J&B and/or ideas around or similar to Project Keystone. Funds nearing $85, 00 will be used to, "Respond to / rebut Goliath's public advocacy, amplify negative Goliath news, [and] seed media stories based on investigation and AG actions.").
With the amount of effort, thought and funding put into it, looks like Hollywood and the MPAA's battle against file sharing on the internet is far from over. With the growth of the internet things seem to be getting out of their hands, and Project Goliath intends to put control back where the studios and the MPAA have a greater say in what gets shared. While it would be a major win for them when it comes to earning more profits and revenues, its impact on basic internet freedom will undoubtedly be irreversible. So, do you think Project Goliath should succeed? Or have the studios and the MPAA gone too far in their quest for content control. Let us know what you think in the comments section.