Ever wonder who is behind some of the opinions expressed by various bloggers. Could it be that some are being paid to express particular views? Are they hit-men-for-hire?
Well, you're not the only one to ask. The difference, though, is that this person can demand answers. The federal judge presiding in the Oracle v. Google patent infringement case wants to know if either company paid commentators or bloggers during the case. Judge William Alsup's order is short and to the point:
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. Although the proceedings in this matter are are almost over, they are not fully over yet and, in any event, the disclosure required by this order would be 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 to the parties or counsel. Therefore, each side and its counsel shall file a statement herein clear identifying all authors, journalists, commentators or bloggers who have received money (other than normal subscription fees) from the party or its counsel during the pendency of this action. The disclosure shall be filed by noon on Friday, August 17, 2012.
It's not at all clear what prompted Judge Alsup to act. Both companies have said they will comply. It was already known that Florian Mueller of the FOSS Patents blog was getting paid by Oracle. He disclosed that he was a consultant to Oracle in April as the trial was beginning and said Microsoft is a client as well.
So was Google paying somebody?
It's possible that Google has arrangements that are similar to Mueller's deal with Oracle.
Complicating the picture is a reality of the Internet and world of blogging. Many bloggers run ads from Google's AdSense program. Google pays them a commission to run the ads.
And there are organizations that receive Google money either as donations or cy press payments in class action suits. To what extent — if any — does such money come with strings? Is their at least an unspoken understanding that the recipient won't bite the Google hand doing the feeding.
Judge Alsup's order is broad enough that it appears to cover not only the clear case of a blogger for hire, but also cases were ad money was received and where donations were accepted by an organization.
There should be some interesting reading on Aug. 17.