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Supreme Court hands Google a multi-billion dollar proceeding to win Oracle

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Nina Totemberg

The US Supreme Court won a big victory over Google on Monday in a multi-billion dollar copyright dispute.

The court voted 6 to 2 when Google infringed Oracle’s copyright in the early 2000s when Google used a small portion of Oracle’s lines of computer code to create new system software for smartphones. Declared not.

Google used about 11,500 lines of Java code written by Oracle, but the court said it was only 0.4% of the Java code. Also, Google has incorporated four-tenth percent of it into a brand new “conversion” code for Android smartphones, which is “fair use” under US copyright law and Oracle is entitled to payment. there is not.

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Google 6-2 in a case in which tech giant Oracle accused Google of illegally copying the code. This decision is the culmination of a decade of legal struggle between the two companies. Credit: J. Scott Applewhite / AP

Judge Stephen Breyer wrote in court, looking back at the decade’s history of the case and stating that the Java programming language was invented by Sun Microsystems, which was acquired by Oracle. However, Java was developed primarily for use on desktop and laptop computers. And shortly after acquiring the Android company, Google began discussing the possibility of licensing new smartphone technology across the Java platform with Sun. However, Google’s plan was to use popular open source-based Java code that anyone could use for free. Sun objected, and when the two companies couldn’t agree on the terms, Google decided to build its own platform. This ultimately relied on a small portion of Java code.

In layman’s terms, Google’s claim was that the Java code was like the basic tomato sauce for pizza. Pizza may be claimed to be a new invention, but it’s not a tomato sauce.

Judge Breyer’s 39-page opinion states that the purpose of copyright law is not only to protect new products and innovations, but also to “wider” and “stimulate the creativity of public lighting.” .. And in this case, Google created a new computer code that was open to all platforms. It “provides programmers with highly creative and innovative tools for the smartphone environment.” Mr. Breyer said that Google’s slight use of Java code “is in line with its creative” progress “, which is the basic constitutional purpose of copyright itself.”

The decision solves many of the copyright issues that have plagued tech companies for over a decade, said Charles Duane, senior fellow in technology and innovation policy at the R Street Institute, a nonpartisan free market think tank.

“This decision has significant implications for software compatibility,” said Matt Tait, Chief Operating Officer of Corellium, a provider of smartphone services. “You can create platform software that can be run by someone else’s program without worrying that the connection is copyrighted.”

However, Professor Jane C. Ginsburg of Columbia University, who has made a leading statement on the issue of intellectual property, said the decision raises some potentially practical issues. Among them, “Will the Supreme Court’s ruling discourage public disclosure of the code if programmers are afraid that they could carefully select and privatize their creativity?”

Judges Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito opposed the decision on Monday. As they saw, when the discussion between Oracle and Google broke down, Google “simply copied 11,500 lines of code verbatim from Oracle’s library.” And doing that was “not fair.”

Oracle co-founder and chairman Larry Ellison and its CEO Safra Katz have openly formed an alliance with President Trump after the 2016 presidential election, and his administration upheld the company in the Supreme Court. .. But in the end, their efforts didn’t help.

Google shouted about Monday’s victory and called it a victory for consumers, but Oracle said, “Google’s platform has grown, market power has increased barriers to entry and reduced competitiveness.”

Dorian Daley, Oracle’s vice president and general counsel, said: “That’s why regulators around the world and the United States are considering Google’s business practices.”

Judge Amy Coney Barrett did not participate in the case.

Copyright 2021 NPR. For more information, please visit npr.org.

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