Supreme Court rules API copying is fair use

Enlarge / Exterior watch of a Googleplex creating, the company headquarters of Google and guardian corporation Alphabet, May well 2018.

The Supreme Court docket has sided with Google in its 10 years-prolonged legal struggle with Oracle in excess of the copyright standing of software programming interfaces. The ruling usually means that Google will not owe Oracle billions of dollars in damages. It also has significant implications for the broader software package marketplace, due to the fact a ruling in the reverse way could have triggered a wave of lawsuits versus application companies that re-executed other companies’ APIs.

The case dates again to the development of the Android system in the mid-2000s. Google determined to foundation Android on Sun’s Java programming language, enabling current Java programmers to quickly build for the platform. Google independently carried out the Java API methods, but to ensure compatibility, it copied Java’s system names, argument types, and the class and package deal hierarchy.

A several decades later, Oracle acquired Sunshine and before long afterward sued Google, arguing that Google’s copying had infringed Sun’s copyrights. In excess of a 10 years of litigation, Google won two times at the trial court amount, but each and every time, the ruling was overruled by the Federal Circuit appeals court. The scenario finally arrived at the Supreme Court docket final calendar year.

Writing for a six-justice vast majority, Justice Stephen Breyer held that Google’s copying of the Java API calls was permissible underneath copyright’s good use doctrine. The substantial court docket punted on whether APIs can be copyrighted in the first area. But the court’s truthful use reasoning was wide plenty of that it should really deliver a sturdy defense for most API copying, generating the question of API copyrights a lot significantly less essential.

We are going to publish an in-depth evaluation of the court’s reasoning when we have time to totally digest it and see what the industry experts are saying.

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