Google, Oracle Deny Paying For Propaganda

Oracle insists Google has paid "influencers" to support its position in patent and copyright litigation.
Google and Oracle on Friday revealed their shill lists--statements identifying journalists, bloggers, and commentators who expressed an opinion about Oracle's patent and copyright infringement claim against Google and received money for doing so--without actually revealing anything.

Oracle sued Google over its use of Android last year, initially claiming as much as $6 billion in damages. It now looks like the case will cost Oracle rather than enrich it. The case went to trial in April. A jury concluded in May that Google didn't infringe Oracle's Java patents but did infringe some of Oracle's copyrighted Java APIs. That minor victory for Oracle was rendered moot when the judge in the case, William Alsup, subsequently ruled that APIs cannot be copyrighted. With its victory almost complete, Google has asked that Oracle pay more than $4 million in legal fees. Oracle is appealing the decision.

The lists of paid authors, demanded 10 days ago by Judge Alsup, are predictably short: Google and Oracle both deny retaining anyone to write specifically about the lawsuit.

Oracle did point out that it pays Florian Mueller, author of the blog FOSS Patents, to consult about competition and patents. But it noted that Mueller disclosed this relationship earlier this year and that "he was not retained to write about the case."

Mueller, Oracle said in its statement, "is a frequent critic of Oracle and was a leading advocate against Oracle's acquisition of Sun Microsystems, Inc., which led to Oracle's ownership of Sun's Java IP portfolio."

Mueller is even more frequently a supporter of Oracle, all on his own.

[ Learn more about the lawsuit. Read Google Wins Another Round In Oracle Lawsuit. ]

Oracle, however, has plenty of information to provide about its opposition's alleged undisclosed allies, though the judge didn't ask for a statement about that. The company insisted that Google "maintains a network of direct and indirect 'influencers' to advance Google's intellectual property agenda."

Oracle cited as examples Ed Black, president and CEO of the Computer and Communications Industry Association--which receives some funding from Google--for advocating against the copyrightability of APIs. And it points to Jonathan Band, a co-author of the book, Interfaces on Trial 2.0, which Google cited in a trial brief. Brand, noted Oracle, has an "indirect relationship to Google through Google supported trade associations."

While Oracle impugned these individuals by association, it does not allege there was any quid pro quo payment from Google for anti-Oracle opinions.

Google insisted that there is no network of influencers advocating on its behalf. "Neither Google nor its counsel has paid an author, journalist, commentator, or blogger to report or comment on any issues in this case," the company said in its statement. "And neither Google nor its counsel has been involved in any quid pro quo in exchange for coverage of or articles about the issues in this case."

Google acknowledges that it has given money to universities, political organizations, and trade associations and that some individuals at those institutions may have elected on their own to support Google's position. But the company insists it did not pay for favorable coverage.

What Alsup intends to do with information about paid advocates for either side remains unclear. Santa Clara University law professor Eric Goldman observed that the order is unusual given the stage of the litigation and the order's broad scope.

However, Alsup is not satisfied with Google's answer. In an order filed Monday, the judge clarified that while Google does not need to report bloggers who got paid as a consequence of hosting Google ads, the company does need to be more specific.

"Oracle managed to do it," the judge said. "Google can do it too by listing all commenters known by Google to have received payments as consultants, contractors, vendors, or employees. As for organizations receiving money, they need not be listed unless one of its employees was a commenter. Gifts to universities can be ignored. Again, Google need only disclose those commenters that can be identified after a reasonably diligent search."

Alsup also said that Oracle must amend its list if his order clarifies any issue that might have prevented Oracle from listing a particular paid commenter.

Google has until Friday, August 24, at noon to reply.

Updated to report Judge Alsup's order on Monday.