What was that we were hearing a few days ago from Google about the importance of free speech, protection from tyranny, etc.?We take it that this moral crusade doesn’t include support for a free press.
An attorney for Google and YouTube indicated today that the Web giants may call a prominent tech reporter to the witness stand in an effort to reveal who leaked the journalist confidential documents from the ongoing Viacom and Premier League copyright cases.
Speaking today at a hearing before federal judge Louis Stanton in Manhattan, Google/YouTube lead trial counsel Andrew Schapiro of Mayer Brown LLP said he “would certainly be interested…about hearing from” CNET News reporter Greg Sandoval in the event the court holds a trial over the issue of who leaked the reporter information, including deposition testimony from Google CEO Eric Schmidt, in the fall of 2009.
*UPDATE: Google believes the way we have portrayed this event and its attorney’s remarks is unfair:
This headline is completely inappropriate, and the image caption is in shockingly poor taste. The judge ordered that this investigation take place, so this is in no way Google targeting a journalist. Keep in mind that all the documents in the case were under seal, and it was illegal to leak them. Comparing this to China is beyond absurd, and the story needs to be changed immediately, esp since our attorney never mentioned anything about a subpoena.
When we received this note, we reviewed Ben Sheffner’s write-up again. Google is correct that the judge ordered the investigation and may be the one to demand a trial to figure out who leaked the information. However, it is Google’s attorney who is saying he wants to put CNET’s Greg Sandoval on the stand. Thus, at least based on the way Ben describes the proceedings, the way we have described the situation seems fair.
Here’s more of Ben’s report:
Today’s hearing revealed for the first time that an extensive investigation of who leaked to Sandoval has been occurring out of public view over the past several months. [Google attorney] Schapiro said that “we” — it wasn’t clear whether he was referring to his law firm or to his client — “gathered over 70 affidavits and declarations,” apparently in an effort to prove that the leak did not come from Google/YouTube or its lawyers. Schapiro even told the court that “all phone records and e-mails have been searched” at Mayer Brown, but “nothing was found.”
Judge Stanton asked Schapiro whether anyone had asked Sandoval directly who had leaked to him; Schapiro indicated that Sandoval had declined to reveal his source’s identity during a conversation with a Google PR representative. It was then that [Google attorney] Schapiro indicated his interest in putting Sandoval on the stand:
I would certainly be interested, although we get into other complications, about hearing from Mr. Sandoval if there were going to be a trial.
The “other complications” Schapiro was referring to is the likely ferocious fight CNET and its parent CBS would wage to keep its reporter from having to reveal his source, or sources. (In one of the articles at issue, Sandoval cited “three sources with knowledge of the case.”)
With respect to Google’s point about the subpoena, we are not legal experts, but we believe that the CNET reporter would have to be compelled to testify by the court and that that order would take the form of a subpoena. But we have changed the verb in our headline to “interrogate.”
As to the photo caption, we chose the photo because of the enormously public stance and actions Google is taking right now to protest censorship and government control over the media in China, in contrast to which the desire to force a reporter to reveal sources seemed ironic. (If the judge had ordered the Sandoval questioning, we’d feel differently.) Obviously the caption is intended to be symbolic.