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The U.S Supreme Court on Monday sided with Google against Oracle in a fierce copyright dispute over the software used in Android, the mobile operating system. The court found that Google did not violate the law when it used more than 11,000 lines of software code belonging to Oracle in building its Android mobile operating system.

Oracle owns a copyright in Java SE, a computer platform that uses the popular Java computer programming language.

In 2005, Google acquired Android and sought to build a new software platform for mobile devices.

To allow the millions of programmers familiar with the Java programming language to work with its new Android platform, Google copied roughly 11,500 lines of code from the Java SE program.

The copied lines are part of a tool called an Application Programming Interface (API).

An API allows programmers to call upon prewritten computing tasks for use in their own programs.

Over the course of protracted litigation, the lower courts have considered whether Java SE’s owner could copyright the copied lines from the API, and if so, whether Google’s copying constituted a permissible “fair use” of that material freeing Google from copyright liability.

“We assume, for argument’s sake, that the material was copyrightable. But we hold that the copying here at issue nonetheless constituted a fair use. Hence, Google’s copying did not violate the copyright law,” Justice Stephen Breyer, wrote in a 62-page opinion.

The decision reversed a lower court ruling in favor of Oracle, which had sought $9 billion in damages from Google for copyright infringement.

Justice Clarence Thomas, in a dissent joined by Justice Samuel Alito, thoughtful dissent offers a very different view of how (and perhaps whether) fair use has any role
to play for computer programs.

“Oracle spent years developing a programming library that successfully attracted software developers, thus enhancing the value of Oracle’s products. Google sought a license to use the library in Android, the operating system it was developing for mobile phones. But when the companies could not agree on terms, Google simply copied verbatim 11,500 lines of code from the library,” Thomas wrote in the opinion.

 

“As a result, it erased 97.5% of the value of Oracle’s partnership with Amazon, made tens of billions of dollars, and established its position as the owner of the largest mobile operating system in the world. Despite this, the majority holds that this copying was fair use.”

Also Read: US Firm Oracle Pulls Plug on Eskom

Eskom loses a court battle to stop US-based software giant Oracle from withdrawing its crucial services over a dispute relating to billions of rands owed by the power utility.

The Sunday World reported that South Africa is now at the mercy of Oracle to save it from plunging into darkness and keep the lights on.

Eskom failed to convince the Johannesburg High Court to stop Oracle from withdrawing its crucial services.

Oracle provides an online vending system that records 77 million transactions of electricity a month.

The embattled power utility also uses Oracle’s products and services for load monitoring of electricity generation by power stations.

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