Judge not satisfied with Google’s non-disclosure of paid commenters, gives August 24 deadline
In the ongoing appeal in the Oracle vs. Google patent infringement litigation, U.S. district Judge William Alsup asked both parties to make adequate disclosure of any journalists, bloggers or commentators they have compensated, which may have influenced media coverage. Oracle has complied, by disclosing that patent blogger Florian Mueller is a consultant, but the judge is not so satisfied with Google’s response.
“In the court’s view, Google has failed to comply with the August 27 order,” writes Judge Alsup. The search giant was therefore ordered to make a disclosure on August 24, with the following clarifications:
- “Payments” exclude ad revenues from Google’s AdSense program;
- Experts disclosed under Rule 26 are likewise excluded;
- Any consultant, contractor, vendor or employee who may have commented on the matter should be named;
- Trade organizations need not be listed, unless an employee was a commenter;
- Gifts to universities can be ignored.
Judge Alsup has said that the court was not asking for the impossible, noting how Google earlier claimed that listing everyone would be impossible, given the number of bloggers and publications earning from Google’s ad network.
“Please simply do your best but the impossible is not required,” writes Judge Alsup, adding that Google “need only disclose those commenters that can be identified after a reasonably diligent search.”
The point here is that the court wants to bring to light authors whose online commentary may have been influenced by financial gain from either company, even though payment may have been for a different purpose. This will help keep trial-by-publicity in check by ensuring opinions publicized through the media are not biased. Judge Alsup notes that even public commentary may have an “influence on the courts and/or their staff if only in subtle ways.”
The ball is now in Google’s hands. Let’s see how they will respond.