Google wins copyright clash with Oracle over computer code

Google wins copyright clash with Oracle over computer code

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By James Romoser

at 11:00 am

The Supreme Court joined Google on Monday in a major copyright lawsuit over Oracle and ruled that Google’s copying of part of the Java SE computer program is protected as a “fair use”.

The verdict in Google v Oracle was 6-2, with Judge Stephen Breyer delivering the court’s opinion. Judge Clarence Thomas, along with Judge Samuel Alito, disagreed. Judge Amy Coney Barrett did not attend as she was not yet on trial when the case was discussed in October.

The case concerned Google’s use of certain codes in its Android operating system. Google wanted Android to understand the commands commonly used in the Java SE platform (now owned by Oracle). Therefore, around 11,000 lines of code from Java SE were used in Android. Oracle claimed that reusing this code without permission was copyright infringement.

On Google’s side, Breyer wrote that copying Google, assuming the lines of code can be copyrighted, is still fair use. The fair use doctrine allows unauthorized use of copyrighted material under certain circumstances, even when copying “transforms” the original material to create something new.

“Google redesigned a user interface and only used what was required to enable users to bring their acquired talent to a new and transformative program,” wrote Breyer.

Check back soon for an in-depth analysis of the opinion.

[Disclosure: Goldstein & Russell, P.C., whose attorneys contribute to this blog in various capacities, is among the counsel to the petitioner in this case. The author of this post is not affiliated with the firm.]