Oracle-Google judge wants companies to disclose any paid relationships with press, bloggers

Open source blogger Florian Mueller previously revealed his relationship with Oracle, but the judge has demanded a full list from both companies

The judge overseeing the lawsuit between Oracle and Google over the Android mobile OS wants to know the names of any writers who have a paid relationship with either company.

"The court is concerned that the parties and/or counsel herein may have retained or paid print or internet authors, journalists, commentators, or bloggers who have and/or may publish comments on the issues in this case," Judge William Alsup said in an order filed today in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. "Although proceedings in this matter are almost over, they are not fully over yet and, in any event, the disclosure required by this order would be of use on appeal or on any remand to make clear whether any treatise, article, commentary or analysis on the issues posed by this case are possibly influenced by financial relationships."

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Both Oracle and Google must disclose by Aug. 17 the names of "all authors, journalists, commentators, or bloggers who have reported or commented on any issues in this case and who have received money (other than normal subscription fees) from the party or its counsel," Alsup added.

Florian Mueller, a prominent blogger on open source and patent issues who has followed the case closely on his blog, previously disclosed that he had formed a consulting relationship with Oracle. "As an independent analyst and blogger, I will express only my own opinions, which cannot be attributed to any one of my diversity of clients," Mueller said.

It wasn't immediately clear Tuesday whether Alsup was aware of Mueller's relationship with Oracle, or had an inkling that others besides Mueller may have similar arrangements with either Oracle or Google.

Google "will comply with the order," according to a spokesman. Oracle spokeswoman Deborah Hellinger declined comment.

Alsup's order kicked up some conversational dust on Twitter among those who follow the software industry and the Oracle-Google case.

"Whoa! Judge Alsup orders Google/Oracle to disclose their shills," Eric Goldman, an intellectual property lawyer and director of the High Tech Law Institute at the Santa Clara University School of Law, wrote. "All judges should order this, but is it constitutional?" (In 2009, the Federal Trade Commission issued an order requiring all bloggers to disclose in their posts when they received compensation from the companies they covered, including payments and free goods and services, so readers would know which posts were essentially ads rather than independent evaluations.)

"Sure wish all bloggers had to identify pay-for-play and so much more," human-resources software analyst Naomi Bloom said in another Twitter post.

Oracle sued Google in August 2010, alleging that Android violated a number of copyrights and patents Oracle holds on the Java programming language. While Google largely prevailed in the case, Oracle is planning an appeal.

Chris Kanaracus covers enterprise software and general technology breaking news for The IDG News Service. Chris' email address is Chris_Kanaracus@idg.com

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