January 06, 2020

Google vs Oracle: fight over software copyright law to be decided in US Supreme Court in 2020

[ by Kavita Krishnan ]


The decade long copyright lawsuit between tech giant Google and Oracle will be determined by the Supreme Court of the United States (US) in 2020. Google has appealed set of rulings that it infringed Oracle’s Java software to help create its Android platform.

The Supreme Court will start accepting briefs in the case in the months of January and February. The Justices would be deciding whether the codes known as application programming interfaces (APIs), are worth copyright protection and whether their use by Google was fair.

Oracle initiated the suit claiming that the APIs were copyrightable, seeking US$8.8 billion in damages. While two District Court-level jury trials have found in favor of Google, the Federal Circuit court had over-turned both decisions, asserting APIs are copyrightable and Google’s application of them failed a fair use defense. The Federal Circuit court concluded that companies can copyright API packages, which are vital to making different software programs work together, and prevent other companies from using them commercially without a license.

Some software developer groups and tech companies argue that APIs are functional code that software developers routinely share. Copyright-intensive industry and advocacy groups say Google’s efforts crossed the line and would devalue development of important code.

The Supreme Court will hand down rulings in two other cases in 2020 that will determine how copyright law applies to states.

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