Google and Oracle are now in the U.S. Supreme Court over a copyright case that revolves around the use of computer code. It has to do with application programming interfaces (APIs) and thousands of lines of code that Google used, after it was written by programmers at Oracle, so that their phones could properly use Java.
Google has argued that APIs are not copyrighted and that it was allowed to use the code, as many other developers have done. Oracle claims that they alone had a right to use that code without a license and that Google infringed on that right.
This is hardly a new case. It’s been dragging on for nearly 10 years. But two courts — the initial court and an appeals court — have ruled in favor of opposite sides. As a result, the Supreme Court is now hearing the case. There is a lot at stake, as it could impact future development for smartphones, not to mention the potential financial ramifications for Google as a company.
The case is not over yet, but early reports say that it has been “a disaster for Google” and that it appears Oracle is in the driver’s seat thus far. After all, code in other situations can be protected by copyright. They’re just arguing that the same standard applies to APIs. With (potentially) billions of dollars on the line, Google is trying to argue that this specific code should be excluded from that.
The outcome of this case could shape copyright law for decades to come, and it will be very important to keep an eye on the progress.