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Google names names in amended 'shills' list

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As ordered by the court, Google has submitted a new and longer list of bloggers and other commentators who have written about its ongoing patent litigation with Oracle, even as it continues to insist that it has never paid anyone to report or comment on the case.

On Monday, Judge William Alsup gave the online ad giant five days to better document its relationships with media, after Oracle claimed in its own statement that the Chocolate Factory's support for industry trade organizations was a deliberate strategy designed to "shape public perception."

Oracle went as far as to name Computer and Communications Industry Association (CCIA) president and CEO Ed Black and author and lobbyist Jonathan Band as members of what it described as Google's "network of influencers," adding that Google was obliged by Judge Alsup's order to reveal others.

In its new statement issued on Friday, Google shot back at these claims, calling them "false" and "off base." The CCIA has maintained the same positions on legal matters pertinent to the case since before Google was incorporated in 1998, the search giant argued, while Band had similarly penned most of his opinions on relevant matters long before the case was ever brought to trial.

"Google again states that neither it nor its counsel has paid an author, journalist, commentator or blogger to report or comment on any issues in this case," the statement read.

Nonetheless, the ad-slinger went on to name names, citing a list of consultants, contractors, vendors, employees, and members of Google-backed trade organizations who had written about the case, while maintaining that all had done so independently and without encouragement.

Among those it fingered were a number of high-profile current and former Google employees and consultants, including XML co-inventor Tim Bray, open source advocate Bruce Perens, and Java daddy James Gosling.

Google's chief in-house copyright counsel William Patry was also named, but only for comments he made on copyrights and computer software in a book he wrote in 1996, long before the current lawsuit began.

Also noted were articles by Timothy Lee, a former engineering intern who now writes for Ars Technica, but who says he has never received any money from Google since leaving the company.

In addition to the CCIA, Google named the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Public Knowledge, the Center for Democracy and Technology, and the Competitive Enterprise Institute as organizations who have received funds from Google, although it noted that all are non-profit organizations.

The search giant even went so far as to call out Lauren Weinstein, whom it claims is affiliated with an organization that has conducted paid research for Google, for commenting on his personal Google+ page.

Perhaps the most damning disclosure on Google's list is Professor Mark Lemley, an attorney who has commented on the Oracle-Google litigation for a number of newspapers and other media outlets. Google admitted that Lemley sometimes serves as its outside counsel, though it says he does so only for "unrelated cases."

No matter how innocuous most of this list seems, however, it's sure to fuel the fires of those who accuse the authors of articles affiliated with the groups mentioned of pro-Google bias.

Mike Masnick, who has written articles commissioned by the CCIA that were cited in Google's statement, writes that the fact that that his name appeared in the document, even though his own connection to the Chocolate Factory is tenuous, demonstrates that Judge Alsup's original order was overly broad.

"I can handle people not understanding the details here and attacking me," Masnick writes, "but the fact that we did unrelated research for a different organization that Google is a member of gets me named on a list of 'shills' just doesn't seem right." ®

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