The US Supreme Court sided with Google Monday its decade-long copyright battle with fellow tech giant Oracle over a batch of software code used in the Android mobile operating system.
In a 6-2 decision, the court ruled that Google had not violated copyright law by using more than 11,000 lines of Oracle code to build the Android software that powers most of the world’s smartphones.
The way Google incorporated the code from Oracle’s Java SE computer platform into its Android operating system constitutes what’s called a fair use under federal copyright law, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the majority opinion.
That’s because Google only copied lines of code “needed to allow programmers to put their accrued talents to work in a new and transformative program,” Breyer ruled.
Allowing Oracle to enforce its copyright against Google, on the other hand, could hurt the public by turning the code at hand into “a lock limiting the future creativity of new programs,” Breyer wrote. “Oracle alone would hold the key.”
Google praised the decision, calling it “a victory for consumers, interoperability, and computer science.”
“The decision gives legal certainty to the next generation of developers whose new products and services will benefit consumers,” Kent Walker, the company’s senior vice president of global affairs, said in a statement.
But Oracle slammed the ruling in a statement that needled Google for the regulatory scrutiny it’s facing, such as the antitrust lawsuits filed against the company last year.
“They stole Java and spent a decade litigating as only a monopolist can,” said Dorian Daley, Oracle’s executive vice president and general counsel. “This behavior is exactly why regulatory authorities around the world and in the United States are examining Google’s business practices.”
Google did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The decision was the latest episode in a prolonged court battle that began when Oracle sued Google for copyright infringement in 2010 in California federal court, where Oracle lost in the first stage of litigation.
An appellate court most recently sided with Oracle on appeal in 2018, a decision that Google appealed and the Supreme Court reversed.
The ruling may have saved Google a hefty hit to its bottom line as Oracle had been seeking damages of more than $8 billion.
Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Neil Gorusch and Brett Kavanaugh supported Breyer’s opinion, while Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito dissented. Justice Amy Coney Barrett was not on the bench when the case was argued in October and did not participate in the decision.
With Post wires