Google achieves copyright case against Oracle after 10 long years
The US Supreme Court has handed Google a major win in a long-running copyright battle with Oracle, ruling that the use of the Java programming language for the Android mobile operating system was "fair use."
The 6-2 ruling had been closely watched as a key test of copyright in the digital era, and allows Google to avoid paying out billions to its technology rival.
Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the 39-page majority opinion that even if Google used copyrightable material, "the copying here at issue nonetheless constituted a fair use. Hence, Google's copying did not violate the copyright law."
The case revolved around whether copyright protection should be extended to application software interfaces (APIs), the bits of code that allow programs and apps to work together, and if so, whether Google's implementation was a "fair use" of copyrighted material.
The case drew interest across the spectrum of technology firms and creative industries, and heated debate on how much copyright protection should be afforded to bits of computer code. Two separate jury trials ended with a determination that Google's "software interface" did not unfairly use Java code, saving the internet giant from a possible multibillion-dollar verdict. But an appeals court in 2018 disagreed, saying the software interface is entitled to copyright protection, prompting Google to take the case to the highest US court.
Google and many Silicon Valley allies have argued that extending copyright protection to APIs would threaten innovation in the fast-evolving digital world. According to Google, a win for Oracle would "upend the longstanding expectation of software developers that they are free to use existing computer software interfaces to build new programs."
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