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Oracle and Google ordered to disclose astro-turfers by judge

updated 06:50 pm EDT, Tue August 7, 2012

Lists due August 17, intended for appeals court use

In an unusual declaration, Judge William Alsup has ordered both parties in the Google versus Oracle Java patent case to reveal to the court the identities of bloggers, commenters, and pundits on their payrolls. Alsup doesn't state any detailed reasons for the order, but has said in his ruling that information on "whether any treatise, article, commentary or analysis on the issues posed by this case are possibly influenced by financial relationships to the parties or counsel" would be useful on any appeal.

Alsup may be taking a stand on bloggers who receive money to write sponsored posts masquerading as legitimate opinion, also known as astro-turfers. FTC regulations as set forth in the 16 CFR 255 instruction requiring Internet endorsers to disclose if they are writing a "sponsored post."

One legal scholar at Santa Clara University, Eric Goldman, expressed both support and concern in a tweet regarding the order, saying that "all judges should order this" but also asking "is it Constitutional?" Patent analyst Florian Mueller joined the Oracle payroll when the Google versus Oracle trial was already in the end-phases, but will likely be listed in the disclosures, due by noon on August 17.

Oracle had initially asked for billions of dollars in compensation for Google's infringement of Java code without licensing. After initial court battles went poorly for Oracle, Google proposed a half-percent of Android revenue license on one contested patent, and 0.015 percent of a second , but Oracle refused the offer.

Both phases of the trial resulted in a jury that found it impossible to come to a full consensus. Oracle's attempt to toss the second jury ruling failed on May 31, leading to Alsup's decision later that day.

The case is responsible for a precedent-setting ruling setting aside much of the jury's previous findings, and confirming the non-copyrightable nature of APIs. The language in the 41-page brief clearly attempts to prevent future legal procedural maneuvers from undermining the ruling. Following rulings from Alsup that eliminated the possibility of any significant damages, Oracle agreed to a $0 dollar settlementfrom Google, with no admission of infringement by the search engine giant.

Blogger Order

by MacNN Staff



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