Copyright case: A Big Win for Google Over Oracle in the United States Supreme Court
The United States Supreme Court (US Supreme Court) granted a major victory to Alphabet Inc's Google. The US Court ruled that the use of Oracle Corp's software code by Google for building its' Android operating system did not violate federal copyright law.
The US Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, allowed Oracle to enforce a copyright on its code would harm the public by making it a lock limiting the future creation of new programs. Oracle alone would hold the key.
The US Court in a 6-2 decision turned down the decision of a lower court and held that Google has not violated the copyright laws and cannot be held liable for infringing the rights of Oracle.
Google was sued by Oracle wherein it was accused of illegally using its market muscle to hobble rivals, in the biggest challenge to the power and influence of Big Tech in decades. Shares in Oracle and Alphabet each rose 3.6 percent in midday trading.
Oracle and Google, two California-based technology giants with combined annual revenues of more than $175 billion, have been feuding since Oracle sued for copyright infringement in 2010 in San Francisco Federal Court. Google had appealed a 2018 ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington reviving the suit.
Google lost the case twice at the Federal Circuit and in 2014, that appeals court reversed a federal judge's ruling that Oracle's interfaces could not be copyrighted. The Supreme Court in 2015 rebuffed the previous Google appeal in the case.
In 2016, a jury cleared Google however the Federal Circuit overturned that decision in 2018, finding that Google's incorporation of elements of Oracle's 'application programming interfaces' was not permitted under the so-called fair use doctrine the Copyright Act, rejecting Google's argument that by adapting them to a mobile platform it transformed them into something new.
The US Court has ruled in favour of Google that has prevented it from a major loss. Oracle had made a claim of above $8 billion, but renewed estimates went as high as $20 billion to $30 billion.
Kent Walker, Google's Senior Vice President of global affairs said, "The decision gives legal certainty to the next generation of developers whose new products and services will benefit consumers."
Oracle claimed that Google had plagiarized its Java software by copying its computer code to create Android and it made billions of dollars profit.
Google had rejected the contentions of oracle stating that it has not violated copyright laws. The companies also disputed whether Google made fair use of Oracle's software code, making it permissible under the copyright law.
Justice Breyer ruled that Google's copying was transformative and it had repurposed Oracle's code in a way that helps developers create programs. Hence, it cannot be considered plagiarism and Oracle's rights have not been violated in anyways.
However, Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito gave dissenting views and stated that Oracle's work deserved a copyright and Google's use was 'anything but fair'. Justice Thomas also showed concern that the ruling in favour of Google will harm competition.
Justice Thomas mentioned that "If companies may now freely copy libraries of declaring code whenever it is more convenient than writing their own, others will likely hesitate to spend the resources Oracle did to create intuitive, well-organized libraries that attract programmers and could compete with Android."
Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not participate in the ruling. She had not yet joined the Court when arguments were held on 7 October.