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Judge: Google 'failed' to list astroturf writers

updated 02:30 pm EDT, Mon August 20, 2012

Company must disclose paid writers by noon Friday

In the ongoing dispute between Google and Oracle over patents related to Android's use of Java code, US District Court Judge William Alsup last week ordered both parties to disclose any paid journalists, bloggers, pundits or other writers who may be writing opinion pieces with or without fully disclosing their relationship with the companies -- a practice known as "astro-turfing" since it mimics "grassroots" opinion.

Oracle has turned in its list, which consisted mainly of prominent patent case observer and commentator Florian Mueller -- who had already disclosed his relationship with Oracle (and Microsoft) in April. Oracle also listed a Stanford professor that had helped the company in court cases. Google originally called the request "impossible" due to its interpretation that it had to disclose the names of anyone benefitting from ad revenue through Google.

The judge dismissed Google's excessive interpretation and told the company that his 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," and that this did not include authors who didn't have a direct relationship with Google -- since almost anyone writing for any website that features ads has indirectly received money from the advertising giant.

Google did submit its list before the original deadline of August 17, but did not admit to paying any "author, journalist, commentator or blogger" to comment on the issues of the case -- a description Alsup found lacking to such an extent that he declared in a new order (PDF) that Google has "failed to comply" with his original demand, and required a new list by noon on Friday, August 24. He requested that the company list all "consultants, contractors, vendors and employees" who may have received payment to comment on the case.

The judge ended his order by rebuffing Google's earlier claim that such a list was impossible, saying "simply do your best, but the impossible is not required." He added, "Oracle managed to do it."

by MacNN Staff



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