The highest court in the land has a lot to say about tech this week. The Supreme Court weighed in on Google’s long legal battle with Oracle on Monday, overturning a prior victory for the latter company that could have resulted in an $8 billion award.
In a 6-2 decision, the court ruled that Google didn’t break copyright laws when it incorporated pieces of Oracle’s Java software language into its own mobile operating system. Google copied Oracle’s code for Java APIs for Android, and the case kicked off a yearslong debate over the reuse of established APIs and copyright.
In 2018, a federal appeals court ruled that Google did in fact violate copyright law by using the APIs and that its implementation didn’t fall under fair use.
“In reviewing that decision, we assume, 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,” Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the decision, which reverses Oracle’s previous win. Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas dissented.
“Google’s copying of the Java SE API, which included only those lines of code that were needed to allow programmers to put their accrued talents to work in a new and transformative program, was a fair use of that material as a matter of law,” Breyer wrote.
Google SVP of Global Affairs Kent Walker called the ruling, embedded below, a “big win for innovation, interoperability & computing.”