Google-Oracle Supreme Court ruling: Here’s why it matters

Google and Oracle have been jousting in court docket for a decade over the usage of the Java programming language in Google’s Android working system. In the present day the Supreme Court, in a 6-2 vote, dominated that Google’s use of Java code was categorised as “truthful use”—not “pure plagiarism,” as Oracle had argued.

The Java programming language was initially developed at Solar Microsystems (now Oracle) again within the Nineties. Builders discovered it to be a simple method to construct performance into web sites, and it was later extensively utilized in mobile apps. Google’s Android cell working system was constructed utilizing hundreds of traces (11,330, to be actual) of Java code.

Java was and is an open-source language, that means {that a} neighborhood of builders throughout the tech business have contributed to its growth and evolution. The primary elements of the language have been made accessible to builders by way of APIs (utility programming interfaces) that could possibly be utilized by anybody.


Oracle has argued that the core Java code delivered via the APIs was protected by copyright, and that it must be paid licensing charges by people who used it.

In the long run, the excessive court docket didn’t purchase Oracle’s rivalry that the APIs have been protectable underneath copyright. The bulk determined that Google’s reliance on Java in Android falls underneath “fair use” within the copyright regulation.

The choice releases Google from paying billions in royalty charges and damages to Oracle. It could additionally protect the openness and interoperability of right now’s software program growth atmosphere, legal professional Stan Adams of the Heart for Democracy & Know-how explains:

“This determination is a large win for builders and shoppers as a result of it permits re-use of the practical parts of APIs, like the way in which you should utilize the identical instructions for lower/copy/paste throughout totally different software program purposes, or the way in which common remotes reuse the instructions obligatory to speak together with your tv.”

That’s why software program builders corresponding to IBM, Microsoft, Mozilla, Etsy, and Reddit had filed authorized briefs in assist of Google with the excessive court docket.

Alternatively, some imagine the court docket’s determination might have created a fair-use doctrine that can discourage the long run growth of programming languages.

“After failing in its try and get hold of a license, Google merely stole 11,500 traces of Oracle’s Java pc code to begin Android,” says Mike Davis, founder and president of the Web Accountability Mission. “Google claims this theft was ‘truthful use’ underneath our nation’s copyright legal guidelines—basically claiming it was for the higher good. Sadly, a majority of the Supreme Court purchased Google’s argument.”

Certainly, Justice Clarance Thomas, writing for the minority, mentioned: “One thing may be very incorrect with our fair-use evaluation.”


Beginning in 2012, Oracle and Google traded decrease court docket victories till Google misplaced in Appeals Court in 2016, at which period Google’s attorneys requested the Supreme Court to listen to the case. The Supreme Court agreed, setting the stage for right now’s determination—and the conclusion of Google v. Oracle.

Oracle didn’t take the choice very effectively. “The Google platform simply bought greater and market energy higher, the obstacles to entry larger and the power to compete decrease,” mentioned Oracle’s chief authorized officer, Dorian Daley, in a press release. “They stole Java and spent a decade litigating as solely a monopolist can.”