Google, Oracle Must Disclose Writer Payments, Judge Says

Google Inc., Oracle Corp. and their attorneys must disclose payments made to authors, journalists and bloggers who have reported or published comments on Oracle’s copyright-infringement case over Android software, a judge ruled.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup in San Francisco ordered both sides to file a statement by Aug. 17 identifying any writers who received money during the lawsuit, saying he is “concerned” that the companies or their lawyers retained or paid Internet or print authors writing about issues in the case, according to a court filing today.

The disclosure is needed to make clear whether anything written about the case is “possibly influenced by financial relationships to the parties or counsel,” Alsup said in the filing. Oracle and Google said they would comply with the order.

Eric Goldman, a Santa Clara University School of Law professor and director of the school’s High Tech Law Institute, said the order is unusual and onerous.

“I’ve never seen anything like this before,” Goldman said in an e-mail. “In Google’s case, if it has to disclose qualifying AdSense participants, we’re talking about hundreds of thousands more bloggers to scrutinize.”

Google’s AdSense service lets websites such as blogs sell space to advertisers. Goldman says he’s an AdSense customer through his law blogs, and since he’s written on the case Alsup’s order could encompass him since he’s received payments from Google.

Alsup may have concerns about evidence or testimony in the case that came from someone whose financial ties to the companies wasn’t disclosed, Goldman said.

‘Always Disclosed’

“Oracle has always disclosed all of its financial relationships in this matter, and it is time for Google to do the same,” said Deborah Hellinger, a spokeswoman for Redwood City, California-based Oracle, in an e-mail. “We read this order to also include indirect payments to entities who, in turn, made comments on behalf of Google.”

Florian Mueller, the author of the FOSS Patents blog, who has written about the Oracle case against Google, disclosed April 18 that Oracle had very recently become his consulting client and that he would work with Oracle “for the long haul on mostly competition-related topics.” He said he was an independent analyst and blogger and would only state his opinions, which can’t be attributed to clients.

Mueller didn’t immediately respond to an e-mail message seeking comment on Alsup’s order.

Jim Prosser, a Google spokesman, said in an e-mail that the company would comply with the order and declined to comment further.

A jury found May 7 that Mountain View, California-based Google, owner of the world’s most-popular search engine, infringed Oracle’s copyrights when it developed Android software for mobile devices yet deadlocked on whether it was “fair use,” denying Oracle the ability to seek as much as $1 billion in damages from the search engine company. On May 23 the jury found that Google didn’t infringe two Oracle patents.

The case is Oracle v. Google, 10-3561, U.S. District Court, Northern District of California (San Francisco).

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