SD Times Blog: Supreme Court ruling for Google’s use of Java the right call

by Jeremy

In a case that wound through the courts for a decade, the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday ruled that Google’s use of Java in its Android operating system did not infringe upon Oracle’s copyright. The ruling could have broad implications in how software is created. At the heart of the case is Google’s use of Java API code in Android, which allowed the mobile device platform maker to do what countless other companies have done — integrate with extant code to create or extend their software. In a 6-2 decision (Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not hear the arguments and did not vote), the court decided that Google’s use of the Java APIs was fair. Writing the majority opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote: Supreme Court ruling

“We assume… that the material was copyrightable. But we hold that the copying here at issue nonetheless constituted fair use. Hence, Google’s copying did not violate the copyright law.” He further wrote that “To the extent that Google used parts of the Sun Java API to create a new platform that programmers could readily use, its use was consistent with that creative ‘progress’ that is the basic constitutional objective of copyright itself.”

Google appeared to have the blessing of then-Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz to use the Java APIs, but after Oracle acquired Sun in 2010, the use of the APIs became a source of contention. In a nutshell: Oracle claimed Google used some 11,000 lines of Java code without its permission and sought damages of around USD 9 billion, as Android is the second-most popular mobile operating system behind Apple’s iOS. On the other side.

Google argued that its code use was protected under the “fair use doctrine,” which allows the unlicensed use of copyrighted material in cases where there is just no other way to get things done. Also, in its decision, the court upheld the idea that loss of revenue does not supersede the validity of fair use. The exciting thing about this is the open-source nature of

Through the OpenJDK, Java allows any developer to use Java code however they see fit.  A ruling for Oracle in this case likely would have spawned an avalanche of lawsuits, seeing as much of today’s software is not written from scratch but is cobbled together through the use of APIs because there is no other way to get things done. The need for advances in software is apparent in today’s world as we move to new energy sources and new models for transportation, farming, and manufacturing. Inhibiting this progress through court challenges would be detrimental to us all.

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