It’s not clear what Judge William Alsup was fishing for on August 7 when he ordered both Google and Oracle to submit lists of authors they had paid to “report and comment” on their Clash of the Titans copyright infringement case.
What is clear is that Alsup was not amused when Google decided it would flout his order, and he smacked them pretty hard with an Order to Supplement on Monday:
Google suggests that it has paid so many commenters that it is impossible to list them all. Please simply do your best but the impossible is not required. Oracle managed to do it.
Oracle did comply as Alsup notes, and in the process oh-so helpfully ratted out both Ed Black, President of the Computer and Communications Industry Association and Jonathan Band, an adjunct professor at the Georgetown University Law Center as two of Google’s “paid influencers” in its own filing.
They seem to have a pretty big bug up their collective ass about it, too:
Oracle notes that Google maintains a network of direct and indirect “influencers” to advance Google’s intellectual property agenda. This network is extensive, including attorneys, lobbyists, trade associations, academics, and bloggers, and its focus extend beyond pure intellectual property issues to competition/antitrust issues. Oracle notes that Googles extensive network of influencers has been the subject of recent press coverage.
As Oracle points out, Google cited Band’s work — with no acknowledgment of their financial connection — in an April 3, 2012 copyright brief to the court.
Venkat Balasubramani argues that Judge Alsup’s August 7 order is overly broad, and could be interpreted to include anyone with AdSense ads running on their site. Which prompted Eric Goldman to assert that there was no way Google could comply with the order in the allotted time — precisely the position Google took. Which Judge Alsup did not exactly find funny ha-ha.
Alsup clarified that AdSense participants need not be listed in his Order to Supplement.
While most of the press has focused on dirty hippy “paid bloggers” aspect, it’s clear that the people who are really worried about Alsup’s somewhat unprecedented order are the elite crowd of academics and professional journalists who may not have disclosed that they are on the Google dole, and have been presenting themselves as objective commentators. (Don’t worry, guys. It doesn’t seem to have hurt Jonathan Gruber’s career.)
Dan Levine wonders if Alsup’s order was prompted by a July 27 column in the San Jose Mercury News by Chris O’Brien, which outlines the way that tech giants funnel money to their respective experts to churn out friendly policy prose.
But it’s also possible that over the course of the trial, Alsup wound up on the business end of one of the PR “war rooms” that vendors set up on behalf of corporations (and political campaigns) to flood social media channels with chatter. Alsup seems to be a tech-savy guy who learned to code in Java for the trial. Judges read their own press, and it doesn’t take a Hawking-level IQ to spot a boiler room full of over-caffeinated Twitter trolls with multiple ID software and an IP anonymizer repeating bullet points off an oppo sheet (viz, HBGary, Leonie Enterprises).
Judge Alsup may just be curious to know how deep Google’s propaganda machine goes, especially now that the trial is over. I am too, for that matter. He has ordered them to try harder and come up with a legitimate list of paid commentators by noon on Friday. If Google has decided that judge baiting is a fun new sport, I may just get my wish.