Oracle filed a lawsuit against Google in 2012 for stealing it’s Java platform to use on Androids. Originally, the court ruled in favor of Google, saying that “APIs were purely functional, and thus not creative works deserving of copyright protection” (Rowinski). However, the United States Court of Appeals recently overturned the ruling, saying that application programming interfaces (APIs) are indeed subject to copyright. As a result, Java is not fair use and Google could have to pay damages. Originally, Oracle sued for patent infringement as well, but no violations were found. According to Dan Rowinski, “The case has been remanded back to the original district court for now, but Google is likely to take it all the way to the United States Supreme Court” (Rowinski).
Matt Kallman, Google’s global communications and public affairs manager for patents, said, “We’re disappointed by this ruling, which sets a damaging precedent for computer science and software development, and are considering our options” (Rowinski). Dan Rowinski suggested that this could have a very negative impact on innovation and could potentially create monopolies in software when it comes to APIs. As of right now, software is in a grey area in copyright. The United States has not explicitly laid a foundation for copyright eligible software. Google, therefore, has supported the current stance citing innovation as a product of lack of copyright.
On the contrary, Oracle released a statement that had the opposite point of view. The statement said the court’s recent ruling would “fuel innovation and ensure that developers are rewarded for their breakthroughs” (Rowinski). The company said that “APIs are creative works and that technology advancements would be stifled if companies believed that their work could be freely copied” (Kendall). One of the lawyers representing Oracle in this case argued that “companies are not going to bother making the investments anymore” if courts don’t provide protection for the creators of software technologies (Kendall and Ovide).
Both sides make arguments that are typical in copyright cases. Because the United States does not have clearly developed copyright laws surrounding software, this case is rather difficult and lengthy. Ultimately, the ruling on this case could have a massive impact on how similar cases will be ruled in the future. In my opinion, Google should pay damages to Oracle, but should not be required to license Java from Oracle. I expect the Supreme Court will uphold the Court of Appeals ruling in this case. However, while Google did indeed write and utilize a similar format to Java without a license, the grey area of software copyright should provide some leniency in punishment. Ultimately, the result of this case and the Apple v Samsung case will dictate future rulings in software cases in terms of copyright. In these types of cases involving big corporations, companies should be required to license software in the future.
Rowinski, Dan. “More Than Java: What’s Really At Stake In Google And Oracle’s Copyright Case.” . readwrite, 12 May 2014. Web. 13 May 2014. <http://readwrite.com/2014/05/12/java-copyright-case-google-oracle#awesm=~oE5tORfs0z6fUy>.
Rowinski, Dan. “Chilling Effect: Oracle Wins Appeal to Copyright APIs.” . readwrite, 9 May 2014. Web. 13 May 2014. <http://readwrite.com/2014/05/09/google-oracle-java-copyright-appeals-court#awesm=~oE5vPisov6R4cM>.
Kendall, Brent, and Shira Ovide. “Oracle Wins Ruling in Case Against Google Over Java.”The Wall Street Journal. Print.