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U.S. Supreme Court Brings Google a Big Victory in a Large Android Proceedings

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More than a decade has passed since Oracle first filed a proceeding against Google over the use of some of the Java platforms on Android. Today, the US Supreme Court has finally ended it, making Google a long-standing winner. Although the relevant parts of Java haven’t been used on Android for years, the end of this legal battle sets a precedent for US copyright law that will be important to almost anyone creating software platforms in the future.

Specifically, the Supreme Court ruled that Google was exercising fair use principles when copying parts of the open source Sun Java API for use on Android. Quote from court conclusions:

The fact that computer programs are primarily functioning makes it difficult to apply traditional copyright concepts in the world of technology … in this case Google reimplements the user interface and users themselves The talent accumulated to work in the new and innovative program of, Google’s copy of the Sun Java API was a fair use of that material as a matter of law.

The word “transformative” is an important word for Google’s fair use defense. This usually applies to creative works. Using an existing work in your project is fine as long as the work you do on it is transformative. For example, a movie like Austin Powers is a parody rather than a direct rip-off, even if the fragment is more or less a complete copy of a James Bond movie.

For more technical concepts, things get tricky and it’s not always clear what counts as a transformation for legal purposes. Google has participated in this battle so far. In 2015, a federal court ruled that the nature of product catalogs was so transformative that they could scan pages of copyrighted books for search and indexing on Google Books. Google has copied over 11,000 lines of code from the Java API in the original build of Android.

In a “magnificent” $ 9 billion proceeding, Google v Oracle proved that the basic parts of a program like the API were actually subject to copyright law, but the court refused Oracle’s patenting attempt. did. (This is a completely different can of worms.) Google appealed to the US Supreme Court through the Federal District Court, but the initial ruling was passed in 2015.

Since 2016, Google has claimed that Java implementations on Android are subject to US fair use standards. Today’s ruling validates that claim, and Oracle will not be paid billions of dollars for piracy. Of course, the two proceedings, which lasted more than 10 years, mean that both sides spent tens of millions (probably more) on statutory costs.

Android hasn’t used Java code since Nougat (version 7) was released in 2016, but the battle between Google and Oracle was still up and down the US court system. With decisive judgment from the country’s highest legal body, the battle seems to have finally come to an end.

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