updated 05:36 pm EDT, Tue September 4, 2012
No further action to be taken regarding 'astroturfers' in case
US District Court Judge William Alsup has awarded Google $1 million in legal fees in a hearing earlier today -- denying the search engine giant its initial request of $4 million. Additionally, the judge has decided to take "no further action regarding the subject of payments by the litigants to commentators and journalists," referring to his order requiring Oracle and Google to disclose astroturfers on the payroll.
In regards to the paid bloggers, Alsup said "no commentary has in any way influenced the Court's orders and ruling herein save and except for any treatise or article expressly cited in an order or ruling." Both companies named some individuals who they claimed to have paid for other work during the trial, but refuted the possibility of anybody having been compensated to comment directly on the case.
In the process of ordering the payment, the judge made it clear who he thought the victor was. In his ruling, he declared that "Oracle initially sought six billion dollars in damages and injunctive relief but recovered nothing after nearly two years of litigation and six weeks of trial."
Google argued that Oracle must pay $4 million to cover the costs generated during this year's Java court battle. The bill included $2.9 million for organization of copied court-necessary documents, $143,341 for transcript services, and $986,978 for compensation of the court-appointed experts. Oracle is expected to contest the fees.
To justify the multi-million dollar document-processing fee, Google's archivist revealed that she collected documents from 86 custodians, and generated 97 million documents for electronic processing and review. The fee is also justified by multiple document-to-TIFF conversion procedures for presentation, as well as nine requests by Oracle for production of documents with 204 individual document requests. These requests generated 3.3 million documents, with Google's 60 separate document production periods spanning 20 million pages.
Ultimately, the jury found duplicated Java code in Google's Android codebase, but no infringement. Buffeted further by rulings from Alsup that eliminated the possibility of any damages, Oracle agreed to a $0 dollar settlementfrom Google, with no admission of infringement by the search engine giant.
The case is responsible for a precedent-setting ruling confirming the non-copyrightable nature of application programming interfaces, or APIs -- the instructions to developers on how to build their own applications for a given platform. The language in the 41-page brief clearly attempts to prevent future legal procedural maneuvers from undermining the ruling.
With the demand for Oracle and Google to list paid commentors on the case, the judge may have been 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."