The U.S. Supreme Court handed over Google’s victory in a groundbreaking proceeding in the software industry and ruled that it did not violate the law when copying an Oracle-owned software interface for use with the Android smartphone operating system. Did.
This decision ends a court battle dating back more than a decade, including potentially over $ 9 billion in damages claims. The proceedings also raised a fundamental issue affecting the balance of forces between established platforms and emerging competitors in the software industry.
The judge decided Google with a 6-2 majority, opposed by conservatives Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito. The case was heard before Amy Coney Barrett, appointed by former President Donald Trump, joined the court.
With this decision, Google was subject to “fair use” protection in the early days of the smartphone industry, which used more than 11,000 lines of Oracle code to make the Android operating system compatible with the widely used Java software. It turned out that it was. Acquired by Oracle.
By using Java code called the application programming interface, Java developers could easily adapt their existing programs to run on Android. This is a big advantage for Google in its smartphone rivalry with Apple.
Google sought to put itself on the side of emerging competitors in the tech industry, arguing that the freedom to copy interfaces is important for anyone looking to compete with a powerful tech platform. However, Oracle and its supporters argued that the case shows how powerful companies like Google have the legal power to steal code and crush challengers.
“Google Platform has just grown and market power has grown,” Oracle said after the loss. The case “exactly shows why regulators around the world and in the United States are considering Google’s business practices,” he added.
Google’s defense validated the claim that the interface should not have legal protection covering most computer code, as it counts as an essential “operation method” like the steering wheel of a car. He also claimed that it was protected by fair use, which allows limited use of copyrighted material.
In making a decision only in terms of fair use, the judge decided that Google used “only the lines of code needed to bring the talent accumulated by programmers to work in new and innovative programs.”
By not deciding whether the interface is copyrighted in the first place, this decision left an important issue for the software industry.
Some developers claim that this case has made it clear that the legal status of interfaces that are widely copied within the industry needs to be clarified. They warn that most companies cannot tolerate the cost and uncertainty of implementing long-term “fair use” defenses.
The court said it chose to “do not decide more than necessary to resolve the case.”
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