It’s easy to see how Mississippi attorney general Jim Hood—a Bible-reading, pro-gun, pro-life, Democrat—has survived in statewide office even as his already conservative state has turned a deeper shade of red. Quite simply, he’s a likeable, quotable guy who doesn’t seem to have forgotten his roots in New Houlka, Mississippi (population 626).
Since taking office in 2003, Hood has done meritorious work bringing civil rights era murderers to justice and has proven himself willing to tussle with insurance companies (over hurricane claims) and drug companies (about prices). Even his ties to once-wealthier-than-Croesus trial lawyer Dickie Scruggs (who finished up his prison sentence in September) seemed only to add to his populist charm.
That’s why it’s very interesting to learn, via the recently leaked trove of Sony emails, that Hood is the go-to-guy for Hollywood movie studios seeking to gain the upper-hand in a complex but high-stakes battle with internet companies over copyright law. In a nutshell, the studios, through their trade association the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), are seeking to revive the principles of the controversial SOPA (Stop Online Piracy)/PIPA (Protect IP Act) that would give them and anyone else who owns intellectual property a huge amount of power over the way websites and search engines operate.
The webzine The Verge first reported that one e-mail from the MPAA general counsel Steven Fabrizio talks about getting together 3-5 attorneys general but says that “Hood alone if necessary” will carry water for the studios. Similarly, the website Torrentfreak reports that Hood’s potential reaction to a press release was key in shaping the studios’ public message. Hood, the moviemakers and their lawyers seem to assume, is the guy who can and will issue Civil Investigative Demands (CIDs) to the search engines on all sorts of things that interest them. And, as Techdirt reports, the studios are willing to spend heavily to get even more AGs to follow in Hood’s footsteps. They’ll need some sort of strategy like this because the heavily-funded push to pass SOPA and PIPA in 2012 failed dismally after groups on the left, right and center as well as major Internet sites like Wikipedia launched a major protest involving mass petitions and a one-day site blackout.
No evidence suggests that Hood’s relationship with the movie industry violates any laws or canons of legal ethics. Moreover, none of Hood’s major financial supporters seem to have strong ties to the movie industry. That makes his behavior all the more unusual since Mississippi has almost no economic interest in the movie industry. Indeed, the state lacks a major film school, doesn’t house production for a single scripted TV show, and has served as the main shooting location for only 5 widely released movies over the past decade. The MPAA itself says that the state has a total of 242 film-and-television-production related jobs; one of the smallest per-capita totals in the nation. All-in-all Mississippi has more people who make their living arranging flowers (460, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ databases) than in film and TV production. Maybe Jim Hood really likes hanging out with movie moguls?