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Updated: Jury rules in favour of Google in Android – Java copyright violation case


Update: A U.S federal jury yesterday concluded a month-long trial between Google and Oracle by ruling that Google did not infringe Oracle’s copyrights in any manner and that the use of 37 Java APIs on Android OS is protected by “fair use”, Wall Street Journal reported

24th May: Oracle has argued that Google took its intellectual property without permissions and made huge profits as a result, in the closing arguments of its $9.3 billion copyright lawsuit against Google, reports Reuters. In the retrial, Google had said it should be able to use Java’s APIs without paying a fee under fair-use.

The retrial began on the 30th of March, with Oracle arguing that Google infringed copyrights related to Java when it used 37 Java API packages to create Android. Interestingly, the amount claimed by Oracle is far more than what it paid for the entirety of Sun Microsystems which it purchased for $5.6 billion in 2009, the original creator of Java.

Timeline of the case:

– On 10 May Oracle argued that “If that code wasn’t in their three billion phones, not one would work”, while Google told the jury that Android was ‘built with our engineer’s work’, and that Android was precisely the kind of thing that fair use was intended to encourage.

– On 12 May Sun’s former CEO Jonathan Schwartz said that Java was free and that Android had no licensing problem, while Oracle’s lawyer kept suggesting he was a terrible CEO.

– On 14 May programmers from Sun and Google testified citing such use was fair use, although an email indicated the list of terms Google sought to actively ‘purge’ from its implementation including ‘sun, oracle, java, jvm, jdk, jsr’ etc.

– On 17 May, Oracle CEO Safra Catz took to the stand to state that the company did not buy Sun to file this lawsuit.

– On 23 May, Google closed its argument by stating that Android was built from scratch the fair way. It said that “Oracle took none of the risk, but wants all the credit, and a lot of the money.”

Note that the Java language itself is free to use, however, Oracle believes that Google violates it copyrights by using Java APIs in building Android. The Federal District Court rejected in 2012 that Oracle had any copyright in the first place over the Java API because it was ‘functional’ in nature, and that the overall organization of names simply comprised of short phrases. This was after a jury had found that Google had infringed Oracle’s copyright by copying into Android the “structure, sequence and organization” of Java APIs.

The Court of Appeal, however, was of the opinion that the API was copyrightable despite being functional, because every computer program is functional, and because the organization of names satisfied the test of creativity (see the judgment here). It reversed the judgment of the Federal District Court and held that while Oracle cannot claim any copyright over APIs with the exact same SSO (Structure, Sequence and Organization), Java API was copyrightable. It ruled that Google in creating Android had copied the same name organization as that of Java.

The current case will determine whether Google is entitled to fair use defense, which can excuse it from the copyright infringement.

Medianama’s take: Google’s loss will not only be a major blow for the company and Android, but also for the way software works. APIs have traditionally been open to use, and weren’t even copyrightable until the Court of Appeals ruled in Oracle’s favour. However, given the situation, Google is left with no choice but use the fair-use argument. If it fails at, will cause major upheaval in the software development world.

Also read:

Oracle v. Google, and the end of programming as we know it

More Than Java: What’s Really At Stake In Google And Oracle’s Copyright Case

Image source: Flickr user Family O’Abé under CC BY 2.0

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