Opinion: Oracle takes strike three in Google’s legal battle, but the game is likely to continue for software developers

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Oracle Corp. and Google have battled in court for more than a decade over the “fair use” of software code, but after Oracle received a third strike from the US Supreme Court on Monday, it is likely. That just means the next hitter is about to step in. the plate. The complex case was originally presented by Oracle ORCL, + 3.27% in August 2010, months after the company bought Sun Microsystems Inc. for around $ 5.6 billion, seeking billions of dollars in revenue from Android mobile phones. . Among the assets Oracle purchased was Sun’s Java programming language, which Sun originally developed as free open source software.

Oracle alleged that Alphabet Inc.’s GOOGL, + 4.19% GOOG, + 4.11% Google stole application programming interfaces, or APIs, from Java to develop the Android operating system, while the advertising and search giant argued that the 37 declaration code packages – instead of “implement code”, which implements the program’s methods and tasks, it should be considered “fair use”. After two previous rulings in favor of Google were overturned in Oracle appeals, the US Supreme Court put the final nail in the coffin on Monday. As of 2016: The battle between Google and Oracle is not over, but one side has a huge advantage.The whole fight revolved around APIs and whether programmers would have to pay license fees for the ubiquitous pieces of software, which led many legal scholars to try to find analogies to describe the software. In the end, Judge Stephen Breyer compared API functions to a gas pedal or keyboard. “The declaration code shortcut function is similar to a gas pedal in a car that tells the car to move faster, or the QWERTY keyboard on a typewriter that calls a certain letter when you press a key in particular, “Breyer wrote in the majority opinion. . “Without that copy, programmers would need to learn a complete news system to call the same tasks,” he added. These are the kinds of comparisons that software developers (and other jurists) have been making for years, hoping that volatile demand won’t disrupt their industry. “Software developers have assumed for decades that these kinds of things can be freely reused,” said Tyler Ochoa, professor and copyright expert at Santa Clara University School of Law. “In that sense, the Supreme Court preserves the status quo. It would have been much more damaging to the software industry if they had ruled in favor of Oracle. “James Gosling, a former Sun Microsystems engineer known as the father of Java, now works as a senior engineer at Amazon.com Inc.’s AMZN. , + 2.08% AWS, tweeted that “sanity has prevailed” after the ruling was rendered. Announced. The issue is not fully resolved, however. The Supreme Court ruled that the general question of fair use in software computer, which is how many in the software industry have analyzed the use of existing APIs, will continue to be determined by the courts in the future. “And just as fair use takes into account the market in which scripts are bought and sold and paintings, you must also consider the reality of how technological works are created and disseminated, “wrote the court.” We do not believe that a close ‘all or nothing’ approach is faithful to the overall design of the Copyright Act. ” The rostrum He says there is a hierarchy here in terms of the type of protection given to computer programs, ”said J. Michael Keyes, partner and intellectual property attorney at the law firm Dorsey & Whitney LLP. Rather than resolve an issue around APIs and fair use, Keyes believes the court may have opened the door to new cases where companies copy parts of APIs, claiming fair use. “Now that the court has blessed Google’s copying of this code, we will see other market participants do the same, declaring the code or copying different parts of the APIs with a transformative purpose,” Keyes said. “I think we will see that companies will start to go further, I do not think this will turn off the litigation. I think that as a result, we will see more copies and more lawsuits. “Therefore, the divisive argument is not really over, nor have the fighters completely laid down their arms. Even after Monday’s ruling, Oracle said flatly in its statement to News outlets that Google “stole Java and spent a decade litigating as only a monopolist can,” and the news hit that Alphabet is ditching Oracle’s financial software for SAP SAP, + 4.81%. Both companies closed Monday with their stocks at all-time highs. At the end of a long and painful battle between companies, it’s no wonder the love is lost. But for software developers who rely on APIs and other open source code for their livelihood, the fight can continue.