Trump Urges SC Stay Out of Copyright Dispute between Google & Oracle

The Trump administration recently urged the Supreme Court (SC) to stay out of a long-running Copyright Infringement dispute between Google and Oracle Corporation, dealing a remarkable blow to Google’s efforts to evade an $8 billion damages award.

The dispute billed as the copyright battle of the decade is related to software interfaces known as API declarations, which are shorthand commands facilitating prewritten complex computer functions. As per the plaint, Google used a trove of Oracle-owned Java API declarations while building its Android smartphone operating system (OS).

The Trump administration brief stated that Google copied over 11,500 lines of computer code verbatim as well as the complex structure inherent in that code to develop its competing commercial product. The record also demonstrates that Google’s unauthorized copying has harmed the market for Oracle’s Java platform.

In 2010, Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems, which originally developed the API declarations. Soon after, Oracle sued Google in federal court for patent and copyright infringement claiming that Google impermissibly copied its API declarations. The litigation continued for years, but then Google questions the SC ‘whether or not APIs are copyrightable in the first place.’ In Google’s view, APIs are a method of operation as they help developers to access prewritten complex functions and according to the Federal Copyright Act, Copyright Protection doesn’t extend to ‘methods of operation.’

Google firstly explained that the API declarations make developers learn how to access the prewritten functions to perform tasks by implementing codes. It then added that in this respect, the APIs are analogous to rules developers are trained to follow while writing programs in Java language, and if these rules were changed, the prewritten methods would not work. That’s why the declarations are a necessary part of operating the libraries of prewritten codes.

The Trump administration disagreed by saying that the APIs cannot count as a method of operation just because they perform functions.

The government said that although there are conditions in which all computer codes appear as a method of operating a computing device, and the Copyright Act makes it clear that the computer codes can obtain copyright protection.

Giving the federal government’s views remarkable credence, the justices at the SC ask for its guidance about whether or not to take the case. Nevertheless, Google contends the federal pleas courts are split as to if copyright protections reach software interfaces such as APIs. The justices are more likely to take case emphasizing questions of law over which several courts disagree.

Google prevailed at the first trial of the case in 2012, where a jury deadlocked over Oracle’s claims, prompting the judges therein to sign with Google. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, a court for patent appeals, changed that decision and ordered another new trial in 2014. Google petitioned the Federal Circuit’s ruling to the SC, but they turned its request down in 2015.

In the second trial followed in 2016, a jury sided with Google on finding its use of API declarations as fair use. Nonetheless, the Federal Circuit reversed that verdict, stating Google had not involved in fair use, and forwarded the case to a lower court for a trial on damages. As that decision is still pending before the SC, the judges asked the Trump administration to weigh in on the supplication on April 29. For more visit:

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