Witness interviews see the light of day

Transcripts and video tapes of pretrial interviews with several top industry executives in the ongoing antitrust case between Microsoft Corp., nine states and the District of Columbia will be released to the media, a court ruled Sunday.

U.S. District Court Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly ordered Microsoft and the suing states to turn over "redacted," or edited, copies of transcripts and video tapes, according to court papers filed over the weekend.

Four of the depositions that will be made public have already occurred. They are with Microsoft Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Steve Ballmer, Microsoft Senior Vice President James Allchin, the former CEO of Netscape Communications Corp. Jim Barksdale and the CEO of set-top box software maker Liberate Technologies Inc. Mitchell Kertzman.

Those transcripts will be made available to any interested media organization by the end of the week, a Microsoft spokesman said Monday.

A fifth deposition with Sun Microsystems Inc. CEO Scott McNealy has yet to occur, according to the court order. Transcripts or video footage of that interview would be made available to the media if or when it does take place, the judge ruled.

The District of Columbia and the nine states that did not sign on to the proposed settlement between Microsoft, the U.S. Department of Justice and nine other states, are scheduled to return to court on March 11 in a set of hearings to determine whether harsher remedies should be imposed on Microsoft that go beyond what the company agreed to in its pending settlement.

Media organizations including the Associated Press, Cable News Network LP LLP, The Washington Post and Dow Jones & Co. Inc. asked the court in January to make public the interviews being conducted in preparation of that next phase of the case.

While the judge granted the media access to the five specific depositions, she denied the request to access all of the depositions being conducted. The media will have the opportunity to make a case for access to additional depositions in further legal filings, the judge decided.

A transcript of one deposition with Richard Fade, senior vice president of Microsoft's OEM (original equipment manufacturers), was released last week by the suing states, sparking a debate over whether Microsoft was using the proposed deal with the DOJ and nine states to benefit from new Windows licensing contracts inked with its top 20 partners in the PC industry. Microsoft defended its contracts in a court filing Friday.

While the suing states and Microsoft have not opposed media efforts to intervene in the case, Microsoft has continually fought to keep the depositions sealed, arguing that they included confidential information that is protected by a previous court order.

Kollar-Kotelly wrote in the order filed Sunday that Microsoft "does not offer any affirmative evidence or argument to indicate that the release of redacted transcripts and video tapes would in any way burden, oppress, or embarrass the parties ... or the third-parties who were deposed."