Supreme Court seat in Washington. J. Scott Applewhite / A
P The US Supreme Court has given victory to Google in a landmark case for the technology industry, ruling that it did not violate the law and that it made a “fair” use of the Java programming language, owned by Oracle, to develop the mobile phone operating system Android.
The decision ends a legal battle that dates back more than a decade and that involved a lawsuit for damages valued at 9,000 million dollars. The case also raises fundamental questions affecting the balance of power between established platforms and newcomers in the software industry
The decision, taken by six against two, was followed with much expectation, as it is based on rights author in the digital age. The case was heard before Amy Coney Barrett, appointed by former President Donald Trump, joined the high court
The case was to decide whether copyright protection should be extended to application programming interfaces (APIs) – the snippets of code that allow programs and applications to work together – and if so, whether Google made "fair use" of the material. The process caught the attention of the entire tech industry and creative industries, heating up the debate about how far copyright protection for computer code snippets should go.
The use of these well-known pieces of Java code As application programming interfaces (APIs), it made it easy for Java developers to adapt their existing programs to work on Android, which was a huge advantage for Google in its rivalry with Apple in the smartphone industry. This type of copying has been common for a long time in the technology sector, where companies tend to try to make their new software compatible with the most used technologies.
In this sense, the High Court admits that Google copied approximately 11,500 lines of code from the API in question, which is equivalent to "only 0.4%" of the total, which consists of 2.86 million lines, so when taking into account "the amount and substantiality of the portion used" in this case has considered that the 11,500 lines of code should be seen as a small part of a considerably larger whole.
“The Court concludes that the copy of the API by Google to re-implement a user interface, taking only what was needed to allow to users putting their accumulated talents to work in a new and transformative program, was a fair use of that material, "it has ruled.
Google tried to side with smaller competitors, it alleges nd that the freedom to copy interfaces was important to anyone trying to compete with powerful technology platforms. But Oracle and its supporters claimed the case showed how powerful companies like the search group steal code and have the legal power to crush applicants. "The Google platform just got bigger and the market power is greater," Oracle said after its defeat. He added that the case showed "exactly why regulatory authorities around the world and in the United States are examining Google's business practices." Google Senior Vice President of Global Affairs Kent Walker said this ruling "is a victory for consumers, interoperability and computing."
The investment made by programmers in learning the interfaces meant that "enabling the Oracle's copyright enforcement in this case would pose a risk to the public, ”according to the Supreme Court decision, written by Justice Stephen Breyer. It would create “a lock that would limit the future creativity of the new programs. Only Oracle would have the key. ”
Case of a decade
The court battle began ten years ago. In 2014, the Court of Appeals of the Federal Court of Washington ruled in favor of Oracle by estimating that this company could claim copyright for the Java code copied by Google for the development of Android without its consent. Also, in 2018, the same court found that Google had infringed copyright protection laws in favor of Oracle.
Google's defense was twofold. It argued that it was protected by fair use, which allows limited use of copyrighted material, but also argued that interfaces should not have the legal protection that most computer code covers because they count as a “method of operation. ”Essential, like the steering wheel of a car.
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