Campaigners cry foul play as Oracle funds conservative lobby group supporting its court case against Google

Google-funded think tanks need to sit back and, er, have a think


Campaigners have reacted angrily to Oracle's decision to fund the Internet Accountability Project (IAP), a lobby group which has – surprisingly enough – supported Oracle's claim against Google in the US Supreme Court.

The IAP, among others, has filed amicus brief supporting Oracle's position in the case. IAP said it wants to "ensure that Google respects the copyrights of Oracle and other innovators".

Since then it has come to light that Oracle is, in fact, helping to fund the IAP. An Oracle political activity report (PDF) released late last year shows that in 2019 it donated between $25,000 and $99,999 to the IAP, known for its conservative-leaning views on internet policy.

Ashkhen Kazaryan, director of civil liberties and legal research fellow of nonprofit think tank TechFreedom, told The Register that the donation "is problematic since the IAP refuses to disclose its funding while demanding [funding transparency] of real research institutions.

"They go after many respected think tanks and call them 'Google shills' while themselves getting money directly from Oracle – a key competitor of Google. IAP has done a ton of work supporting Oracle's positions, including filling in their support of Oracle in the Supreme Court Case Oracle v Google."

The IAP is registered as "social welfare organization, such as a civic organization or a neighborhood association" [501c4] and therefore is not required to disclose its funding.

At the time of the IAP's February submission to the Supreme Court, Mike Davis, the founder and president, said:

With a straight face, Google is claiming that stealing copyrighted computer code from Oracle is "fair use." There is nothing fair about Google's absurd interpretation of the "fair use" doctrine to justify Google's theft of Oracle's intellectual property. Google's theft of Oracle's property was about money, pure and simple.

Oracle's copyright lawsuit against Google dates back to 2010, when Oracle sued Google for infringement over its use of Java APIs in its Android operating system.

Oral arguments in the Google vs Oracle Supreme Court battle are now scheduled for 24 March with a decision expected in June. It is set to decide if copyright protection applies to a software interface and whether Google's use of Java APIs in Android constitutes fair use.

Whatever the Court decides, funding of lobby groups by tech giants – on either side – is unlikely to be seen as fair.

Oracle has refused to comment to The Register on the issue. ®

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