Google Ordered Anew to Disclose Commentators in Oracle Case

Google Inc. was ordered for a second time to disclose which commentators receiving company money wrote about a copyright case against it after Google told a judge it may be impossible to name all those who fall into that category.

Google’s first response, in which it said it didn’t directly pay anyone to write about Oracle Corp.’s lawsuit over Android software, failed to comply with an Aug. 7 order requiring it and Oracle to disclose payments to commentators, bloggers and authors, U.S. District Judge William Alsup said in a court filing today. Alsup presided over a trial in the case in federal court in San Francisco.

Google told Alsup Aug. 17 that people affiliated with nonprofits, universities and trade groups receiving Google money may have commented on the case and it believed Alsup’s disclosure order didn’t apply to those individuals. Alsup said commentators paid as consultants, contractors, vendors or employees should be disclosed.

“The Aug. 7 order was not limited to authors ‘paid to report or comment’ or to ‘quid pro quo’ situations,” the judge wrote. “Rather, the order was designed 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.”

“Public commentary that purports to be independent may have an influence on the courts and/or their staff if only in subtle ways,” Alsup said. “If a treatise author or blogger is paid by a litigant, should not that relationship be known?”

Jury Verdict

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 the copying was “fair use.”

That denied Oracle the ability to seek as much as $1 billion in damages from the search engine company. The jury found May 23 that Google didn’t infringe two Oracle patents.

Google said in court filings Aug. 17 that it didn’t pay people to write about the lawsuit, although nonprofit organizations, universities and trade groups receiving money from the company have commented on the case.

The company said it may be impossible to name all the people who wrote about the case and asked if Alsup wanted a more comprehensive list.

Disclosure Exceptions

Commentators receiving Google advertising revenue and those with universities receiving Google money don’t need to be disclosed, Alsup said.

“We’ll comply with the order,” Jim Prosser, a spokesman for the Mountain View, California-based company, said in an e-mail. Alsup gave the company until Aug. 24 to file a list.

Oracle has hired one writer, Florian Mueller, author of the FOSS Patents blog, as a consultant, not to blog about the lawsuit, Oracle said in an Aug. 17 filing. Mueller, who disclosed the relationship in April, has written extensively on the lawsuit.

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

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