The verdict is in, and Google has beaten Oracle. Today, after three days of deliberation, a jury in San Francisco federal court found that Android’s usage of 37 Java APIs is protected by fair use, so there was no need for Google to acquire a license before using the code. This seems to close a copyright battle that has sprawled across six years and two trials, although Oracle’s appeal of this recent ruling is probably inevitable.
The owner of Java was seeking $9.3 billion from Google in what it claimed were damages and lost licensing revenue. During the trial, Google leaned heavily on Eric Schmidt, a current chairman of Alphabet who previously worked at Sun Microsystems while Java was being developed. Schmidt testified that Sun developed and promoted Java APIs as ‘free and open,’ not to be sold or licensed separately from Java. Sun was acquired by Oracle in 2010, which is when the company began pursuing Google for damages. In 2012, US District Judge William Alsup ruled that APIs could not be copyrighted, but Oracle appealed, and the ruling was overturned. This year’s trial focused on only one issue: does Google’s use of these specific 37 APIs fall under fair use?
Oracle repeatedly pointed out that Google copied 11,500 lines of code for use in Android, calling their actions a “shortcut at Oracle’s expense” and “stealing.” The search giant argued that they were not copying lines of code per se, since the Java language is ‘free and open’ to use. A better description would be to say that they were re-implementing Java APIs under fair use. Google further argued that Larry Ellison, the CEO of Oracle, was initially an Android fan but “changed his mind after he had tried to use Java to build his own smartphone and failed to do it.” The jury sided with Google: their use of Java APIs has been found to be ‘fair use.’
After the victory, Google issued a statement to the following effect:
Today’s verdict that Android makes fair use of Java APIs represents a win for the Android ecosystem, for the Java programming community, and for software developers who rely on open and free programming languages to build innovative consumer products.
What do you think of Google’s victory over Oracle this week? Was justice served, or has Oracle been swindled out of billions in potential earnings, not to mention the millions spent on the lawsuit? Let us know in the comments below.