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Reporters Allowed in Microsoft Depositions ... For Now

Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly has rejected a Microsoft request and granted press access to company depositions for the upcoming remedial phase of its antitrust case. Kollar-Kotelly told the company that she would reverse this decision if Microsoft could prove to her that confidential information will be revealed during the depositions.

The depositions--similar to the video taped depositions that were held as part of Microsoft's original antitrust trial--will be used during the remedial phase of the case, in which nine U.S. states have rejected a DOJ settlement with Microsoft and demanded tougher sanctions against the company, which was previously found guilty of violating U.S. antitrust laws. One such deposition--that of then-CEO Bill Gates--proved to be particularly damaging to Microsoft during the original trial, since Gates was acting under the assumption that the video would never be publicly shown. However, the DOJ used excerpts from the embarrassing deposition extensively during the trial.

Various news organizations, including the Associated Press, CNN, and the New York Times, filed for pretrial deposition access using a 1913 law that permits public access to witness depositions in antitrust cases. Kollar-Kotelly rejected this argument, however, agreeing that the old federal statute no longer applied, because the U.S. government had already settled its case and only individual states were still pressing the case. However, the judge also noted that reporters and other members of the public cannot be excluded from depositions. Therefore, Microsoft will have to prove that " confidential or highly confidential information" will be discussed during the depositions if it wants to cut off public access.

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