High court sides with Google in copyright fight with Oracle

Supreme Court
Posted at 1:29 PM, Apr 05, 2021

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is siding with Google in an $8 billion copyright dispute with Oracle.

The justices sided with Google 6-2 on Monday.

In a decision, Justice Stephen Breyer ruled that the technology company took what was needed by copying the API to "put their accrued talents to work in a new and transformative program, constituted a fair use of that material as a matter of law."

But in a dissent joined by Justice Samuel Alito, Justice Clarence Thomas said that the copyrighted code Google used "was anything but fair."

"Oracle spent years developing a programming library that successfully attracted software developers, thus enhancing the value of Oracle’s products," Justice Thomas wrote. "Google sought a license to use the library in Android, the operating system it was developing for mobile phones. But when the companies could not agree on terms, Google simply copied verbatim 11,500 lines of code from the library. As a result, it erased 97.5% of the value of Oracle’s partnership with Amazon, made tens of billions of dollars, and established its position as the owner of the largest mobile operating system in the world. Despite this, the majority holds that this copying was fair use."

The case has to do with Google’s creation of the Android operating system now used on the vast majority of smartphones worldwide.

To create Android, which was released in 2007, Google wrote millions of new computer code lines.

But it also used 11,330 lines of code and an organization that’s part of Oracle’s Java platform.

Google says what it did is a long-settled, standard practice in the industry, a practice that has been good for technical progress, and the Supreme Court agreed.