The judge in the long-running Oracle-Google copyright lawsuit has advised jurors to adjust the privacy settings on their social media outlets – noting, "I can't control the press," and warning that story-seeking journalists would look them up.
Judge Alsup addressed the juror pool this morning in San Francisco as lawyers from the two tech giants attempted to whittle scores of potential jurors down to a panel of ten.
Those ten people will be deciding on potentially billions of dollars in damages and a legal precedent with far-reaching impact on the software industry.
The issue of social media profiles has already flared up in Goracle pre-trial hearings when the judge grew suspicious of the two companies asking for two days to review juror survey responses. He asked if they were intended to scour the internet for information on them, and lawyers for Google and Oracle admitted they were.
Google later told the judge it was willing to agree not to use its own technology to research jurors, but Oracle remained unpersuaded, causing the judge to request that any online searches done on the jurors be disclosed to him.
Whether the companies stuck to that agreement remains to be seen as the second juror to be excused had in fact been Oracle executive chairman Larry Ellison's accountant (the first person was excused because of a weak bladder). "I know just about everything about him personally," the beancounter told the court as tech reporters swiftly memorized her face for later.
The American Bar Association has considered the issue of searching jurors' online presences and decided that it's OK for lawyers to do so. But it draws the line at them asking for access to restricted accounts, hence the judge's advice to get behind privacy walls from now until the end of the trial, which is expected to be mid-June.
The irony of the situation was not lost on the judge who advised the jurors not to Google anything about the case.
Ignorance is bliss
As often happens in tech cases, ignorance in jurors is seen as preferable, despite the fact that cases such as this often rely on a good understanding of complex technology and technological concepts.
In this case, Oracle sued Google, claiming that its Java class library APIs are covered by copyright, and that Google owes it potentially billions of dollars in fees because Android relies on those APIs. Google argued you can't copyright software interfaces, but Oracle was backed by an appeals court and the US Supreme Court wasn't interested in hearing the case.
So now the matter has been punted back to a federal district court to hear Google's argument that its use of those copyrighted APIs constitutes fair use. If it is ruled fair use, Google won't have to pay Oracle a penny. The trial redux started today and is expected to last for months.
In a worrying sign, when asked whether they knew what APIs were, only two potential jurors said they had ever heard of them.
As per the questionnaire they were all required to fill out, there were some interesting responses on what some jurors thought about Google and Oracle.
Most, for example, felt that Google was an "innovative company." And half have Android phones. One juror remembers what Oracle did to PeopleSoft and wasn't happy about it; he was excused.
At the time of writing, there are 15 potential jurors left and the lawyers are finding reasons to cut the last five. Such as the guy who told the judge he believed in a higher power to him. It seems that God was going to tell him which way to vote.
A fight immediately broke out between lawyers over who God was exactly: Larry Ellison or Eric Schmidt. ®