How much do you know about the fight between the tech titan, Google and its rival, computer software corporation, Oracle? Did you know that they have been feuding for over a decade, spanning three trials and two separate appeals? Here's the scoop:

 

The first thing to know about this situation is that Oracle owns Java SE, a computer platform that uses the popular Java computer programming language. In 2005, after Google acquired Android, they sought to create a brand-new software platform for mobile devices. Google wanted to allow millions of programmers to work with its new Android platform. These programmers were all familiar in using the Java programming language. In order to allow programmers to do this, Google decided to copy about 11,500 lines of code from the Java SE program. This code was part of an API or Application Programming Interface. Programmers use this tool to pull up prewritten computing tasks that they can then use in their own programs.

 

Oracle finally decided to sue Google on August 13, 2010 for copyright and patent infringement. The big questions included: can Oracle copyright lines from the API and could Google’s copying be constituted as fair use or could it be sued for copyright? After the first proceeding, it was decided by the federal circuit court that the copied lines are copyrightable. The federal circuit reversed, concluding that Google’s copying was not a fair use as a matter of law. The US Supreme Court then decided to consider the Federal Circuit’s decisions in relation to copyright AND fair use.

 

One of the main reasons that the case has gone on for so long is due to the fact that if Google was found guilty, damages could have run into the billions. Because Android is now used in an estimated 70% of global smartphones, Oracle had previously claimed to be owed as much as $9 billion. Google argued that the code was covered under the doctrine of fair use despite Android being the most popular mobile operating system in the world.

 

Despite the previous two ruling, the US Supreme Court reversed those rulings and favored Google in the fair use battle. Justice Stephen Breyer wrote his opinion on the case saying that Google only copied that which was needed to create the Android Program. Google’s “purpose was to create a different task-related system for a different computing environment (smartphones) and to create a platform—the Android platform—that would help … the creative progress that is the basic constitutional objective of copyright itself.” While the decision focused mainly on the APIs as the copying of the code was found to be fair use seeing as Google developed the APIs independently, the decision made no final commentary on the issue of copyright even though said APIs are clearly based on those in the Java code.

 

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Sources:

https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/20pdf/18-956_d18f.pdf

https://www.bbc.com/news/technology-56639088

https://www.cnbc.com/2021/04/05/supreme-court-rules-in-googles-favor-in-copyright-dispute-with-oracle-over-android-software.html

https://www.theverge.com/2021/4/5/22367851/google-oracle-supreme-court-ruling-java-android-api