Justice agrees with Google in its dispute with Oracle over the use of Java on Android
The US Supreme Court has given victory to Google in a landmark case for the technology industry, ruling that it did not break the law and that it made a “fair” use of the Java programming language, owned by Oracle, to develop the system. Android mobile phone operating.
The decision ends a legal battle that dates back more than a decade that involved a lawsuit for damages valued at $ 9 billion. The case also raises fundamental questions affecting the balance of power between established platforms and new competitors in the software industry.
The decision, taken by six against two, was followed with much expectation, since it is based on copyright in the digital age. The case was heard before Amy Coney Barrett, appointed by former President Donald Trump, joined the high court.
The case was to decide whether copyright protection should extend to application programming interfaces (APIs) – the code snippets that allow programs and applications to work together – and if so, whether Google made a “use fair ”of the material. The process caught the attention of the entire tech sector and the creative industries, heating up the debate about how far copyright protection should go for snippets of computer code.
Using these pieces of Java code, known as application programming interfaces (API), made it easy for Java developers to adapt their existing programs to work on Android, which was a huge advantage for Google in its rivalry with Apple in the smartphone industry. This type of copying has been common for a long time in the technology sector, where companies tend to try to make their new software compatible with the most used technologies.
In this sense, the High Court admits that Google copied approximately 11,500 lines of code from the API in question, which is equivalent to “only 0.4%” of the total, which consists of 2.86 million lines, therefore taking into account “the quantity and substantiality of the portion used” in this case he has considered that the 11,500 lines of code should be seen as a small part of a considerably larger whole.
“The Court finds that Google’s copying of the API to re-implement a user interface, taking only what was needed to allow users to put their accumulated talents to work in a new and transformative program, constituted a fair use of that material ”, has ruled.
Google tried to side with smaller competitors, claiming that the freedom to copy interfaces was important to anyone trying to compete with powerful technology platforms. But Oracle and its supporters claimed the case showed how powerful companies like the search group steal code and have the legal power to crush applicants. “The Google platform just got bigger and the market power is greater,” Oracle said after its defeat. He added that the case showed “exactly why regulatory authorities around the world and in the United States are examining Google’s business practices.” Google Senior Vice President of Global Affairs Kent Walker said this ruling “is a victory for consumers, interoperability and computing.”
The investment made by the programmers in learning the interfaces meant that “allowing Oracle’s copyright enforcement in this case would pose a risk to the public,” according to the Supreme Court decision, written by Justice Stephen Breyer. It would create “a lock that would limit the future creativity of the new programs. Only Oracle would have the key ”.
Case of a decade
The court battle started ten years ago. In 2014, the Court of Appeals of the Federal Court of Washington ruled in favor of Oracle, estimating that this company could claim copyright for the Java code copied by Google for the development of Android without its consent. Also, in 2018, the same court found that Google had infringed copyright laws in favor of Oracle.
Google’s defense was twofold. It argued that it was protected by fair use, which allows limited use of copyrighted material, but also argued that interfaces should not have the legal protection that most computer code covers because they count as a “method of operation Essential, like the steering wheel of a car.