The highest court in the United States (The Supreme Court) has given its decision in a favor of Google over Oracle on the matter of the architecture of Google’s Android operating system (OS).
What Supreme Court Ruled?
Justice Stephen Breyer wrote:
“Google’s copying of the Java SE API, which included only those lines of code that were needed to allow programmers to put their accrued talents to work in a new and transformative program, was a fair use of that material as a matter of law.”
What Oracle Claimed?
Oracle and Google face off in court today over whether Android infringes copyrights and patents from Sun Microsystems (now owned by Oracle). There are very few surprises I anticipate coming out of this trial. I expect that the evidence will include a ton of code snippets, Oracle’s primary claim. In short, Oracle is trying to prove that Google copied 11,500 Java code lines for Android OS that initially came from Sun Microsystems.
Note: Oracle acquired Sun in 2010, with the company later suing Google for almost $9 billion in damages over illegally using that software.
Google Claims for “Fair Use”
Whereas Google, on the other hand, claims of using the software as “fair use” with the company that won the first major legal battle in the case only in 2016 when the appellate court overturned the decision two years later. Following repeated requests from Google, the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case last year.
Kent Walker Says
Google’s senior vice president of global affairs shares his thoughts on Twitter that the Supreme Court decision will be considered a massive success for innovation and collaboration.
“We thank the world’s top developers, software engineers and copyright experts for their support.”
Giant Search Engine’s Power
On the other hand, Dorian Daley, Oracle’s executive vice president, and general counsel, encapsulates all this situation as the worst example of the tremendous power of Google.
Dorian Daley States on Oracle’s Website
“Google’s platform is already big and powerful in the market. Barriers to entry and low competitiveness. They stole Java and spent ten years filing lawsuits as a single person,” Daley wrote in a statement posted on Oracle’s website. “That’s why every concerned department and regulatory bodies are deeply examining Google’s business practices.”
It’s not easy to forget this decision
The decision will be felt throughout the technology industry, not only because the case was an unusual one between two technical giants on the world legal stage. But it also affects how companies can create software based on which code is appropriate to use or not. Google has argued that the decision against the company would end the new operation. Oracle called Google’s argument “backward,” disputing the notion that patent rights may promote creativity.
Google only used that lines of code that couldn’t be created
When the Supreme Court heard arguments in October, Google’s attorney Thomas Goldstein said Google had only used parts of the code that could not be rebuilt while Android was being built. He said they work “like a key that goes in the key.” You have compared this code to “connective tissue” that should not be protected.
Chief Justice John Roberts Replies
At the time, Chief Justice John Roberts replied, “Breaking the safe can be the only way to get the money you want, but that doesn’t mean you can do it.” He added, “If that’s the only way, the only way to do it is to get a license.” Eventually, Roberts joined the public opinion in favor of Google.
Others who joined the majority were judges Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh; Judges Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito argued. Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not participate as she was not in court during the trial.
The engineers were happy with the Decision
Many developers and others in the technology world have welcomed the court’s decision:
Tim Bray, who worked for Sun Microsystems, Google and more recently on Amazon Web Services, gave a smiling face emoji as he wrote on Twitter that the decision was “an expensive and embarrassing loss for Oracle.”
“This case has been a source of great concern to me. The wrong decision here could have ruined the technology,” said Navneet Joneja, vice president of software maker VMware who worked for Microsoft and Google. “I’m so glad to see that they made the right decision!”
“Thank you to the Supreme Court for saving all modern computing from the attacks of troll trolls,” wrote Alex Stamos, a security researcher at the Stanford Internet Observatory and former security leader at Facebook.
Basecamp Chief Technology Officer David Heinemeier Hansson congratulated the decision but was unhappy that it had taken so long. “What a tragedy for the American legal system that this has dragged OVER A DECADE to resolve it,” he wrote on Twitter. “The real case was filed in August 2010!”
“The controversial decision would have raised doubts in the minds of all the engineered engineers,” writes Ian “Hixie” Hickson, a Google engineer involved in setting standards for technology such as HTML.
There is a caveat in the Supreme Court decision, however. Google has argued that the APIs are not reserved, which is something many developers have applauded. The Supreme Court did not rule on that point; however, it only referred to opposition to fair use of Google and therefore had to “decide more than is necessary to resolve the case.”
But the decision still offers comfort to those concerned about whether the APIs have the right to publish, writes Twitter Gordon Haff, a technology evangelist at IBM’s Red Hat software division.
“On the other hand, it would be nice to see SCOTUS say that APIs do not have copyright,” Haff said on Twitter. “On the other hand, that may be very close to legislation from the bench, and this decision is likely to have the same effect.”