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Copyright war: Oracle vs. Google case


Recently, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favour of Alphabet Inc.’s Google in a case where it was accused by Oracle of violating the country’s copyright law.


GS-III: Science and Technology (Intellectual Property Rights), GS-II: International Relations (Foreign policies and developments affecting India’s Interests)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. The story so far
  2. More About the case
  3. Court’s argument in favour of Google
  4. Global implication of the ruling

The story so far: Copyright battle between Google and Oracle

  • Supreme court of US has favoured Alphabet Inc.’s Google where is it was accused by Oracle of violating the country’s copyright law. 
  • This case is dubbed as “the copyright case of the century”.
  • In 2010, Federal district court, ruled in favour Oracle by stating that Google’s Android platform infringed upon its copyright in a platform called Java SE. This ruling was overturned in recent judgement.

More About the case

  • Earlier, Oracle acquired Java language from Sun Microsystems (original developers of Java). However, later it was found that Google used some codes of Java language in its android program. JAVA SE (standard edition) is a platform that programmers use to build programs that work on any personal computer. Oracle’s charge was that Google copied a part of this platform’s program while developing the Android platform for programmers.
  • Court acknowledged that Google copied over 11500 lines of code from the Java SE program.

Court’s argument in favour of Google

  • Court said that whatever google did by copying the code for its android platform is based on the fair use of copyrights. Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances.” So, activities such as “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research” may qualify under fair use. In other words, these activities can be exempt from copyright infringement charges.
  • The Supreme Court said Google’s copying was transformative, as it “copied only what was needed to allow programmers to work in a different computing environment” (which is Android) using a familiar programming language (Java).

Global implication of the ruling

  • It would provide freedom to software developers who are using software interfaces developed by others without infringing the copyrights of the original developers. However, creative code would still be subjected to copyright rules.
  • Now, any firm or software developer could use software interface code for their program without violating any copyright rules.
  • This would definitely benefit IT/ITES industry of India.

-Source: The Hindu

December 2023