According to Newsweek, Google and Oracle are bringing their 9-year, $9 million copyright infringement case to the Supreme Court. This case was originally brought to district courts by Oracle in 2010, when Google incorporated over 11,000 of Oracle’s Java code into its Android platform for smart devices.
Google’s defense in the case is: if an owner of a platform can claim to own the interfaces that communicate with certain operating systems through copyright, then innovation and competition may be limited. Conversely, Oracle argues that Google negotiated to take a license for Java code, couldn’t reach the negotiated terms, but used portions of the code anyways, Newsweek says.
Google has won the case twice at the District Court level. However, in both cases, a federal appeals court overturned the verdict and ruled in favor of Oracle. Now, Google wants to escalate the case to the Supreme Court, Newsweek says.
What decision makers need to know about the case:
The case is being called the “copyright case of the decade” due to its complicated nature of copyright laws: “how much protection do copyright laws give to application program interfaces (APIs)?” Newsweek says.
Oracle says that if it weren’t for Android there’s a chance its Java software could have been a major smartphone platform, and a win for the company. However, if it agrees to take on the case, the Supreme Court will have to closely examine “exactly what an application program interface is,” Newsweek says, and the two key pieces that make up an interface: the “shorthand label” that a software developer can write into a program to perform a certain task, or a declaration of code, and the longer module it summons into operation, or “implementing the code.”
Newsweek says that Google copied a miniscule amount of code – about three percent of the interfaces in question – and only declarations. Google says that the Java declaration it copied are “non-expressive tools that are not copyrightable at all, and that they “just activate the implementing code.” But, Google says, even if those declaration are found to be copyrightable, its actions of copying code are protected under the “fair use doctrine,” which pardons copying that “promotes creative expression and other societal goals.”
Ultimately, decision makers have to wait and see what will happen; the Supreme Court will decide whether or not it will take on the case this coming fall.
Industry experts, like Jonathan Brand, who wrote a brief supporting Google, say the case is centered around one thing: competition. “We want to have as much competition as possible in the computer industry,” he said in a previous interview.