Gates deposition to be public, judge rules

A judge has ruled that the deposition of Microsoft CEO Bill Gates in the government's antitrust lawsuit against the software giant will be open to the public and the media. The deposition, which Microsoft had wanted to keep private, was to be held today, but will now be scheduled after Microsoft, the government and the news organisations who requested access agree on how it will be held.

A judge has ruled that the deposition of Bill Gates, Microsoft chairman and chief executive officer, in the government's antitrust lawsuit against the software giant will be open to the public and the media.

The deposition, which Microsoft had wanted to keep private, was scheduled to be held today. But US District Court Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson said in his ruling that it should be postponed. The deposition will be scheduled after Microsoft, the government and the news organisations who requested access agree on details for how it will be held.

All of the 16 other depositions in the case will be public as well, according to the three-page ruling. The New York Times and The Seattle Times were among the publications that had requested access to the deposition of Gates.

US Department of Justice (DOJ) spokeswoman Jennifer Rose said a provision of The Sherman Act which covers antitrust cases requires depositions to be open to the public so the agency was not surprised by the ruling.

A Microsoft spokesman said the company's lawyers are considering their options.

"The court's ruling seeks to put protections in place for confidential information for all parties in the case and we will seek a resolution that provides that," said Tom Pilla. "We are concerned about the possible impact of today's developments on trial preparation."

The trial is scheduled to begin Sept. 8.

Last week the judge rejected Microsoft's request to limit the deposition to eight hours. The DOJ had said its questioning of Gates was expected to last two days. The judge also had offered the use of his courtroom for the deposition, but Microsoft officials turned it down, saying they had already selected the venue.

Yesterday Microsoft filed a motion for summary judgment asking the judge to dismiss the case, arguing that the government's case is flawed. In its motion Microsoft argued that the integration of its browser and its operating system is not illegal and that its actions have not prevented browser rival Netscape Communications from widely distributing its software.

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