The Journal Gazette
 
 
Tuesday, April 06, 2021 1:00 am

Supreme Court rules for Google

Oracle said its code was plagiarized

JESSICA GRESKO | Associated Press

WASHINGTON – The Supreme Court sided Monday with Google in an $8 billion copyright dispute with Oracle about the internet company's creation of the Android operating system used on most smartphones worldwide.

To create Android, which was released in 2007, Google wrote millions of lines of new computer code. But it also used 11,330 lines of code and an organization that's part of Oracle's Java platform.

Google had argued that what it did is long-settled, common practice in the industry, a practice that has been good for technical progress. And it said there is no copyright protection for the purely functional, noncreative computer code it used, something that couldn't be written another way. But Oracle said Google “committed an egregious act of plagiarism,” and it sued.

The justices ruled 6-2 for Google Inc. Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented. Only eight justices heard the case because it was argued in October, after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg but before Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the court.

In a statement, Google's chief legal officer, Kent Walker, called the ruling a “victory for consumers, interoperability and computer science.”

Oracle's chief legal officer, Dorian Daley, said: “The Google platform just got bigger and market power greater. The barriers to entry higher and the ability to compete lower. They stole Java and spent a decade litigating as only a monopolist can.”

Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that in reviewing a lower court's decision, the justices assumed “for argument's sake, that the material was copyrightable.”

“But we hold that the copying here at issue nonetheless constituted a fair use. Hence, Google's copying did not violate the copyright law,” he wrote.

Thomas wrote in a dissent joined by Alito that he believed “Oracle's code at issue here is copyrightable, and Google's use of that copyrighted code was anything but fair.”

“The decision gives legal certainty to the next generation of developers whose new products and services will benefit consumers,” Walker wrote.

Microsoft, IBM and major internet and tech industry lobbying groups had weighed in in favor of Google. The Motion Picture Association and the Recording Industry Association of America were among those supporting Oracle.


Sign up for our daily headlines newsletter

Top headlines are sent daily