Google Ordered To Disclose Names Of Paid Bloggers
Google needs to do better, says Oracle-Google trial judge
Google has been ordered to supplement its disclosure on payments it has made to public commentators on its patent and copyright trial with Oracle earlier this year after a judge said the search giant had “failed to comply” with his initial order to reveal the bloggers it was paying.
US District Judge William Alsup on Monday gave Google until noon PST on 24 August to give further details on public commentators who have received funds from Google, whether or not those payments were made specifically in compensation for their activities as commentators.
More disclosures required
Alsup said Google was not obliged to disclose gifts to universities or advertising revenues received by commentators, but asked the company to list commentators who may have been paid as consultants, contractors, vendors or employees.
Alsup has said he asked for the disclosures because he was concerned that both parties “may have retained or paid print or internet authors, journalists, commentators or bloggers who have and/or may publish comments on this issues in the case”.
In its original statement to the court on 17 August Google said it had not paid anyone to comment on its side of the case. In a statement to the press issued the same day, Google said: “Our reply to the court is clear. No one on our side paid journalists, bloggers, or other commentators to write about this case.”
The company acknowledged that bloggers, staff and some people at institutions might receive money from Google indirectly, but did not provide any names.
However, Alsup said Google had misunderstood what was required. The order was not designed to reveal those who had been paid for their comments, but “to bring to light authors whose statements about the issues in the case might have been influenced by the receipt of money from Google or Oracle”, Alsup wrote in the newest order.
‘Do your best’
“Google suggests that it has paid so many commenters that it will be impossible to list them all,” Alsup wrote. “Please simply do your best but the impossible is not required. Oracle managed to do it. Google can do it too… Google need only disclose those commenters that can be identified after a reasonably diligent search.”
In its statement, Oracle disclosed it pays a consulting retainer to Florian Mueller, who writes a widely read blog on intellectual property issues – a relationship Mueller had disclosed as the trial began in April.
Alsup said that Google should follow Oracle’s example.
“Even though the payment (to Meuller) was for consulting work, the payment might have influenced the blogger’s reports on issues in the civil action,” Alsup wrote. “Just as a treatise on the law may influence the courts, public commentary that purports to be independent may have an influence on the courts and/or their staff if only in subtle ways. If a treatise author or blogger is paid by a litigant, should not that relationship be known?”
Network of paid ‘influencers’
In its statement Oracle alleged that Google has its own network of paid “influencers”, which it used to help shape public perceptions during the trial. “This network is extensive, including attorneys, lobbyists, trade associations, academics, and bloggers, and its focus extends beyond pure intellectual property issues to competition/antitrust issues,” Oracle wrote.
Alsup ruled in Google’s favour on 31 May, arguing that Java APIs used by Google in building the now-popular Android mobile-device operating system are open source in nature and not protected by copyright.
Oracle on 20 June accepted zero financial damages in the case, but has said it will “vigourously” appeal the verdict. The company originally had asked for nearly $1 billion (£630m) in restitution and an injunction against Google for using the Android OS in mobile devices.
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