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Paid Media Must Be Disclosed In Oracle v. Google 165

Posted by Soulskill
from the bring-out-your-shills dept.
jfruh writes "One of the odder moments during the Oracle v. Google trial over Java patents came when patent blogger Florian Mueller disclosed that he had a 'consulting relationship' with Oracle. Now it looks like we're going to find out which other tech bloggers and journalists were on the payroll of one of the two sides in this epic fight. Judge William Alsup has ordered (PDF) that both parties disclose 'all authors, journalists, commentators or bloggers who have reported or commented on any issues in this case and who have received money (other than normal subscription fees) from the party or its counsel during the pendency of this action.'"
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Paid Media Must Be Disclosed In Oracle v. Google

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  • Corporate benefits (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pushing-robot (1037830) on Tuesday August 07, 2012 @03:51PM (#40909807)

    Every Oracle employee will now be provided a retroactive subscription to a collection of technology blogs and news sites. Don't worry, all expenses will be paid for by the company.

  • Let's set aside the quibbles, and for the sake of argument just roll with the notion that these writers are mere shills for the Oracle and Google, respectively (after all, that's the notion that clearly lies behind this ruling).

    Isn't the right to speak anonymously protected by the First Amendment? Doesn't that protection extend to Oracle and Google too?

    (I know corporate speech isn't as vigorously protected under the First Amendment, but it is still protected somewhat. And this speech isn't advertising (as w

    • by Fwipp (1473271)

      I don't think it's obvious that anonymous speech is protected by the first amendment.

      • by Desler (1608317)

        It's also a tough case to claim something is anonymous speech when you blog under your legal name.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I don't think it's obvious that anonymous speech is protected by the first amendment.

        Well you're entitled to your opinion of course but by contrast the Supreme Court says:

        "Protections for anonymous speech are vital to democratic discourse. Allowing dissenters to shield their identities frees them to express critical minority views . . . Anonymity is a shield from the tyranny of the majority. . . . It thus exemplifies the purpose behind the Bill of Rights and of the First Amendment in particular: to protect unpopular individuals from retaliation . . . at the hand of an intolerant society."

        (M

        • by Fwipp (1473271)

          Ah, that's good to hear. Thanks for pointing me at the right court case.

    • How exactly is writing a blog post under your legal name 'anonymous speech'? Also, no, it isn't protected to write shill blog posts under while being paid by a corporation. The FTC, for example, in 2009 made explicit rules about bliggers having to disclose if a company is paying them if they do product reviews.

      • by jhoegl (638955)
        Bliggers, is that what we are calling paid pundits for shill corporations? :)
        I wouldnt mind coming up with a word for these types of people. "Advertisement" is too nice.
        • How about "Santorums?"

        • by cupantae (1304123)

          "cundits"?
          "shloggers"?
          It's probably not a good idea to invent any new words, especially insults, ending -igger.

          • by mcgrew (92797) *

            It's probably not a good idea to invent any new words, especially insults, ending -igger.

            Indeed, anyone who has ever had chigger bites [wikipedia.org] don't want to think about it!

            And these insects are no bigger than a mosquito's eye. Their bites always trigger a nasty rash. If you're a ditch digger you're likely to get bites. Nobody's ever managed to jigger up a good way to treat those bites.

    • by jbeaupre (752124)

      It would apply if they were anonymous. Google and Oracle know who they are. They paid them. And if they were paid, then there exists the possibility that the content (speech) was not entirely theirs, but Google's and Oracle's.

      The judge is asking Google and Oracle for list of who may have spoken on their behalf.

      • by oakgrove (845019)
        I love this judge.
      • by v1 (525388)

        This almost sounds like astroturfing, but instead of using shills for public supporters, they're using shills for public reviewers. Not really much of a difference is there?

    • by N0Man74 (1620447) on Tuesday August 07, 2012 @04:04PM (#40910019)

      Whether or not it is protected, I don't think that Anonymous speech is the same thing as when a non-anonymous author being paid to give a biased opinion while hiding the fact that they are being paid to give that opinion.

      • by sumdumass (711423)

        Why wouldn't it be the same? Anonymous sources use the news media all the time to get a message out anonymously. It's really no different other then a dislike for one more then another.

        I'm more concerned with assuming that someone receiving money in some way is automatically considered a shill. I have personally posted things to blogs anonymously in the past favoring employers I had not because they paid me to post, but because I supported what I wrote. I was paid for doing other things not associated with

        • by oakgrove (845019)

          Why wouldn't it be the same? Anonymous sources use the news media all the time to get a message out anonymously. It's really no different other then a dislike for one more then another.

          There is precedent for the FTC coming down on shilling [ftc.gov]. It could be argued in court that paying bloggers to whitewash a brand is a "testimonial". I'm not a lawyer so I'm sure a good one could dream up all sorts of ways to unmask the miscreants legally.

        • It's called fraud, my friend.

          What if I told you that I'm a financing expert and that you should invest all your money in $COMPANY because I make you think that their stock is going way up when I didn't really know if it were true, but my motivations were really coming from the fact that I was getting a commission every time someone bought a stock I referred them to? Would you not feel deceived and manipulated in a way that would make me a criminal?

          It's one thing to say something which is full of bias, but w

          • by sumdumass (711423)

            It could be fraud but I do not think it would always be fraud. If someone actually believed in what they were saying and someone paid them to continue to say it, it would be an honest endorsement of whatever it was they were saying. Similarly, as I said, my endorsement for something that an employer found advantage in would essentially be me getting paid for it. But it wouldn't have been fraud to say what I was saying.

            • It would be fraud if you claimed not to have any relationship with your employer, and this is *exactly* what Florian has made a career of.

              • by sumdumass (711423)

                It would be fraud if the content of the speech was solely that of the employer or somehow a misrepresentation of the true nature of events. Not disclosing employment or payments in and of itself would not make it fraud.

        • by mcgrew (92797) *

          I'm more concerned with assuming that someone receiving money in some way is automatically considered a shill.

          Occam's razor comes into play. Simply state "disclaimer: I am an employee of Acme Computers" and you're upfront, and therefore not a shill.

          The history of the word "shill" is interesting. Carnival workers and magicians used shills. The magician would "read" the shill's mind, the shill would win a big prize at the rigged ring toss game. The whole idea of a shill is that they work for who they're benef

    • by SomePgmr (2021234)

      Nested parens? Are we allowed to do that?!

    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday August 07, 2012 @04:09PM (#40910079)

      This may have nothing to do with anonymous speech. When "expert" opinions are being considered in court, they must be able to withstand scrutiny. Florian Mueller is not just some random interested party, he published an article claiming that he had evidence of copyright infringement.

      http://www.fosspatents.com/2011/01/new-evidence-supports-oracles-case.html

      If Oracle used his opinions in court, Google should be given the opportunity to cross examine him.

      Either way, it is nice to see someone rubbing Florian's nose in it. Another great ruling by Judge Alsup!

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florian_M%C3%BCller#Google_vs_Oracle_copyright

    • A judge can generally order parties to a case in his court to disclose all sorts of things that would normally be confidential.

    • by vlm (69642)

      Let's set aside the quibbles, and for the sake of argument just roll with the notion that these writers are mere shills for the Oracle and Google, respectively (after all, that's the notion that clearly lies behind this ruling).

      Isn't the right to speak anonymously protected by the First Amendment? Doesn't that protection extend to Oracle and Google too?

      Its to protect the profits of the corporations who are not hiring, not the people who they hire. Surprised? Shouldn't be.

      I am no one's official spokesweasel (have you read what I write? no corp would be that insane). I can write something jury tamper-ish or jury influence-ish or stock price influencing and there's not a whole heck of a lot the judge can do about it unless I was served a gag order first or can prove I am revealing trade secrets or otherwise doing something shady. Basically if I'm not gu

    • by Shompol (1690084)

      And this speech isn't advertising

      Paid speech isn't advertising? Well it definitely has a conflict of interest.. I heard about a court order in the past, that if a radio station is paid to play some song with the purpose of promotion it should state that "the following is a paid advertisement".

      Being paid under the table while pretending to produce "objective" tech writer opinions is nothing short of deception. Luckily it was not hard to to figure it out [slashdot.org] even before the disclosure.

    • Personally, I'd consider this anonymous speech only if the "shills" themselves had been trying to be anonymous, or if the shills themselves had been representing the fact that the speech they were conveying was an advertisement coming from some anonymous sponsor.

      In other words, if a paid "shill" really did use their own identity and their own personal/professional fame to misrepresent the fact your talking points was coming from them, and not you, then I'd say the corporation did a lot more than just try to

  • Now this is going to be fun! Part of me would rather remain blissfully ignorant on this...
  • by fredprado (2569351) on Tuesday August 07, 2012 @03:57PM (#40909899)
    It would be very interesting if it happens to Apple too. I can safely bet Apple is the technology company that has more "journalists" in their payroll.
    • If the judge in the apple case is following this one from Alsup (one can hope), then I bet that will come up as well. The interesting part will be seeing which journalists, etc are on which payrolls in conjunction - as it's not hard to contrive that apple/ms/oracle has the same pundits on the payroll for all 3. We already have 2 of 3 confirmed by Florian.

    • by shugah (881805)
      Apple shills do it for free. That's why their called fanboys.
    • Apple? I'd be a lot more interested to see what showed up for Microsoft.
    • It might be quite a lot trickier with Apple. Apple encourages positive press by refusing to talk to any journalist who annoys them - witness the long-running spat between Apple and The Register. El Reg said something unkind about an apple product and Apple have refused to give them any press contact at all for years after.

      So Apple might not need a financial relationship with journalists to encourage Apple-friendly press; they get it anyway, because journos Know What Will Happen otherwise.

  • by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday August 07, 2012 @03:59PM (#40909937) Homepage

    After all, when these types of cases come up, it often has serious effect in the market. So when there are paid-for opinions which are believed to be independent, it alters the perceptions of shareholders and potential shareholders when they are deciding to buy or not to buy. One could conceivably bring meritless lawsuits against market opponents coupled with media doom (such as we saw with Meuller) and see a gain in market value long enough to make a tidy sum when you sell some of your shares at the right time... then buy them back when the truth comes out. The net outcome might be a loss for the company, but a huge benefit to majority shareholders.

  • by h4rr4r (612664) on Tuesday August 07, 2012 @03:59PM (#40909945)

    Is anyone actually surprised Florian Mueller is a shill?

    Did anyone not see that coming? Hopefully, the media will stop printing anything he says.

    • Florian Mueller is essentially a whore. I'm surprised that he can attract business anymore, it's well known by everyone (except maybe the mainstream media) that he's bought and paid for.

      • by Grishnakh (216268)

        I think your comparison is rather insulting, to prostitutes. Prostitutes (or "whores") are providing a service that their customers demand, and the only people possibly being hurt are the prostitutes themselves, and the customers themselves (and possibly the customers' spouses). Florian and other such shills, however, have a much larger effect, because the lies they spew influence so many people, as well as financial markets, basically they affect much of our society.

        Also, prostitutes generally take that

        • I think your comparison is rather insulting, to prostitutes

          A prostitute might be a whore, but a whore is not necessarily a prostitute.

        • Also, prostitutes generally take that job because they're desperate and don't think they have any good alternatives.

          Legalize brothels and you may be surprised how many women think it is a good alternative to a minimum wage job.

          • by Grishnakh (216268)

            Maybe, but it'd be a big surprise. The issues of disease and pregnancy aren't going to go away; birth control isn't 100% effective, and abortion can have medical consequences. Not many men would want to be married to a prostitute. And on top of all that, you'd have to have sex with all kinds of men, most of them probably not the most physically appealing specimens. It's not like being a porn star, where the men are regularly tested, and the male stars are also usually at least fairly attractive, not ran

            • You obviously aren't keeping up. It seems a remarkable number of women postgraduate students pay their way with a little prostitution on the side. It really isn't so different from marrying a rich man and divorcing as soon as possible. Some women go in for one-night-stands, and whatever that says about their self-esteem, the fact is that it happens. Being a PhD student, working long hours and really not having the energy or social time to support a relationship, the fact that they can earn enough to pay the
              • by Grishnakh (216268)

                Hmm. Maybe there's some different dynamics there with some of these women postgraduate students. From what you describe, it sounds like they can be rather choosy about which clients they accept, unlike at a brothel, for instance, where they have to take any client that management requires them to. I can see how this arrangement (being picky about clients) would make the profession much more attractive.

    • by gmhowell (26755)

      Hopefully, the media will stop printing anything he says.

      I hope not. I absolutely love the nerd rage his every word inspires.

    • It's been known for a few months now:

      In April 2012, Müller said he had been hired by Oracle to consult on competition-related topics including FRAND licensing terms.[33]

      He also consults with Microsoft.[34]

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Florian_M%C3%BCller#Google_vs_Oracle_copyright [wikipedia.org]

      And for the record, nobody in the media cares. Shows how much integrity they have... even Ars still reports the tripe he spews out.

      • I take back what I said about Ars - the few articles I found since he's been outed do mention that he's on payroll of some of the companies he supports.

  • Would be interesting if the judge had ordered the shills to disclose their slashdot ids too. Would be hilarious.
    • by steelfood (895457)

      Except it's easy to just go and make new ones.

      Sure, no karma, no 4- or 5-digit prestige, but all it takes is for a couple of biased mods to get them the soapbox they need to do their shilling.

      Good thing there are usually shills for the other side with mod points. Heck, I sometimes wonder if Slashdot's moderation system works as well as it does because the shills end up cancelling each other out, leaving only the impartial(er) comments and moderations.

      • by oakgrove (845019)
        The sweet taste of schadenfreude would still be satisfying for posters like Bonch, OverlyCriticalGuy, Westlake, RecoiledSnake, D'aldredge, et al to finally have to come clean.
        • by Kalriath (849904)

          Indeed. And perhaps give us the opportunity to point and laugh at the crazies that insist that everyone who disagrees with them works for Burston Marstellar or whatever that company is.

  • by sconeu (64226) on Tuesday August 07, 2012 @04:15PM (#40910153) Homepage Journal

    I wish Judge Kimball or Judge Steward had ordered this in the SCO case.

  • by jonabbey (2498) <jonabbey@ganymeta.org> on Tuesday August 07, 2012 @04:16PM (#40910171) Homepage
    Congress should pass the Rob Enderle act immediately to prevent out of control judges from assaulting the good name of IT industry analysts everywhere!
  • Leading up to a crappy Megan Fox movie release, they were flooded with articles (unflagged as payola) about every minute detail of her life. Even the bloggers were commenting about the unwarranted attention. Then, the promos started...

    I've seen them do that with lots of other wannabe stars as well. That and funneling traffic to "gone viral" YouTube videos with ~1000 hits.

  • Try this entry for blatant sock puppeting: http://www.fosspatents.com/2012/08/microsoft-says-motorolas-efforts-to.html [fosspatents.com]

    Does he seriously believe that posting that and pretending to be unbiased is ok when he is conducting a study on the same topic that is funded by Microsoft: http://www.fosspatents.com/2011/10/study-on-worldwide-use-of-frand.html [fosspatents.com]

  • Here is a simple explanation of why the Judge has ordered this:

    1) You are allowed to claim anything you like in a court of law and you can't be sued for slander, defamation, libel etc. as otherwise the legal system would be completely broken.

    2) Journalists are allowed to report anything they like and they can't be used for slander, defamation, libel etc. as otherwise freedom of the press would be completely broken.

    3) Oracle appears to have paid 'journalists' to repeat the claims made in court as fact. Becau

  • Does this include any blogger that used AdSense on their blog that might have posted or commented about this?

nohup rm -fr /&

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