Home >News >World >11,500 lines of Jave code: Google wins copyright fight with Oracle in court

The Supreme Court on Monday ruled for Alphabet Inc.’s Google in a multibillion-dollar copyright battle with Oracle Corp. over how it built its Android smartphone-operating system.

The court, in a 6-2 opinion by Justice Stephen Breyer, threw out a lower-court ruling for Oracle that said Google’s Android infringed its copyrights on the Java software platform. The high court said Google’s copying of some Java API code was fair use. APIs, or application programming interfaces, are prewritten packages of computer code that allow programs, websites or apps to talk to one another.

“Google’s copying did not violate the copyright law," Justice Breyer wrote.

Oracle acquired the Java technology when it bought Sun Microsystems Inc. in 2010.

Oracle accused Google of illegally copying more than 11,000 lines of Java API code to develop Android, which runs more than two billion mobile devices world-wide.

Oracle previously sought as much as $9 billion in damages from Google.

“The Google platform just got bigger and market power greater. The barriers to entry higher and the ability to compete lower," Oracle said in a statement. “They stole Java and spent a decade litigating as only a monopolist can. This behavior is exactly why regulatory authorities around the world and in the United States are examining Google’s business practices."

Kent Walker, Google’s chief legal officer and senior vice president for global affairs, said the ruling “is a victory for consumers, interoperability, and computer science. The decision gives legal certainty to the next generation of developers whose new products and services will benefit consumers."

The decade-old case had been closely watched in tech circles and beyond. Businesses that rely heavily on copyright protections, including in the movie, music and publishing industries, filed legal briefs supporting Oracle and expressing concerns about Google’s claims to fair use of content created by others.

Software makers including Microsoft Corp. and a leading association of internet companies supported Google, arguing copyright law needed to allow some fair use of computer programs to promote follow-on technologies and interoperability among programs.

The Supreme Court sidestepped the potentially broadest legal issue in the case: whether API code was eligible for copyright protection at all.

“Given the rapidly changing technological, economic, and business-related circumstances, we believe we should not answer more than is necessary to resolve the parties’ dispute," Justice Breyer wrote for the court.

So, the court assumed Oracle’s Java API was eligible for copyright protection, but then went on to say that Google had the better argument on the doctrine of fair use, a concept designed to prevent copyrights from stifling the development of new products and services.

“We reach the conclusion that in this case, where Google reimplemented a user interface, taking only what was needed to allow users to put their accrued talents to work in a new and transformative program, Google’s copying of the Sun Java API was a fair use of that material as a matter of law," Justice Breyer wrote.

The court said Google’s copying amounted to just 0.4% of the 2.86 million lines of Java API computer code. Justice Breyer compared the code at issue to “a gas pedal in a car that tells the car to move faster or the QWERTY keyboard on a typewriter that calls up a certain letter when you press a particular key."

Joining the majority opinion were Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

In dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Samuel Alito, said Google’s copyright “was anything but fair."

The dissenters said Oracle spent years developing a programming library that attracted software developers and noted that Google’s copying came after the two sides couldn’t agree on licensing terms. Google’s move also eventually upended the value of deals Oracle had struck with Inc. and others, the dissenters said.

“Google decimated Oracle’s market and created a mobile operating system now in over 2.5 billion actively used devices, earning tens of billions of dollars every year," Justice Thomas wrote.

Justice Amy Coney Barrett didn’t participate in the case, which was argued before she joined the court.

This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text.

Subscribe to Mint Newsletters
* Enter a valid email
* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.

Never miss a story! Stay connected and informed with Mint. Download our App Now!!

Edit Profile
My ReadsRedeem a Gift CardLogout