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March 25 — Google Inc. and Oracle America Inc. were asked to voluntarily refrain from looking into the social media accounts of prospective jurors for an upcoming copyright trial, according to a March 25 ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
At issue is the trial is Google's copying of lines of software code from Oracle's Java programming language to create a language for Android mobile devices that app makers wouldn't have to learn from scratch.
The upcoming trial is one being watched closely by the entire tech industry—software and hardware producers alike .
The legal teams were asking for mysterious delays in the jury selection proceeding, and the court said that it finally became clear that they were planning to look into potential jurors' social media lives. The court then demanded details of their intentions.
In asking for the voluntary ban, the court said it wanted to protect prospective jurors' privacy and reduce the possibility that the litigants would try to craft their trial arguments to appeal to jurors' personal feelings.
“The jury is not a fantasy team composed by consultants, but good citizens commuting from all over our district, willing to serve our country, and willing to bear the burden of deciding a commercial dispute the parties themselves cannot resolve,” the court said. “Their privacy matters.”
But it was even more concerned that jurors— if they knew Google and Oracle were checking their social media accounts or otherwise researching them online—would be more likely to violate the court's pleas to not do their own research into the case, the parties or the lawyers. In particular, the court didn't want prospective jurors to read online articles paid for by Google and Oracle.
If the parties don't agree to the voluntary ban by March 31, then the court will “only reluctantly” impose a procedure through which the lawyers have to disclose to potential jurors exactly what online research will be done. The jurors will then be given a chance to alter their privacy settings on their mobile devices, the order said.
According to the court, Google has already said that it would be willing to agree to a mutual ban on social media juror research.
Judge William Haskell Alsup issued the court's ruling.
Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP, San Francisco, represented Oracle. King & Spalding LLP, San Francisco, represented Google.
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