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DoJ-MS comments: that breakdown in full

30,000 total, 2,900 serious, 45 worth reading?

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So what do you do with "over 30,000 public comments" on the Microsoft settlement if you've promised to publish them in the Federal Register? According to the US Department of Justice, "publication of the comments received likely would cost approximately $4 million," a new record compared to the 8,750 pages of comment on the AT&T case, which would have cost over $600,000 to publish.

In the AT&T case they got around this by publishing the names and addresses of the people submitting in the Federal Register, and making the comments themselves available at 27 district courts throughout the country. But times have changed, and the DoJ now wants the court's permission to do what you might call the bleedin' obvious - use the web.

So this is how it will go, relevant permission being granted. The names, addresses, a comment identifier and the number of pages the comment runs to will be published in the Federal Register and on the DoJ's web site. A zipped file of the full comments will be posted on the web site, and you'll also be able to get the lot on CD at cost. In addition the small number of "major" comments will be organised by subject matter addressed, and the DoJ response will contain hyperlinks to those comments.

'Major' comments, we hear you ask? The DoJ has already had a crack at categorising the comments, and reckons there are "approximately 45" of these. When you get down as far as 45, you'd think you could be more specific than "approximately", but there you go. Of the 30,000-plus total around 1,250 are "unrelated in substance to United States v Microsoft," a small number being advertisements, at least one pornographic ("The United States proposes not to publish such submissions"), and the balance being rants about the proposed private class action settlement, which is another case entirely. D'oh...

Around 2,800 are form letters containing "essentially identical text." Some 19,500 "express an overall view of the RPFJ [Revised Proposed Final Judgment] but do not contain any further discussion of it. These comments do not, for example, attempt to analyze the substance of the RPFJ, do not address any of its specific provisions, and do not describe any particular strengths or shortcomings of it." These two presumably rule out practically all of the form-based lobbying efforts carried out by the warring parties' proxies - and indeed practically anybody who doesn't in some sense at least think they're a lawyer.

This leaves 2,900, and before you mail us we stress that it's the DoJ that seems to have mislaid approx 3,500 out of the 30,000, not us. This remainder "can be characterized as containing a degree of detailed substance concerning the RPFJ. These substantive comments range from brief, one- or two-page discussions of some aspect of the RPFJ to 100- or more-page, detailed discussions of numerous of its provisions or alternatives. The essence of many of these substantive comments overlaps with other comments; that is, numerous comments address at least some of the same issues or raise similar arguments."

Within this group we have the 45 "major" comments, which have been categorised as such "based on their length and the detail with which they analyze significant issues relating to the RPFJ." So, has anybody from amateurs night made it to the final 45, or are they all attorneys retained (perhaps by proxy) by Sun, Oracle and Microsoft? You'll probably have to wait for the zip file to find out. ®

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