Finding Google’s copying a fair use, the Supreme Court ended Oracle’s decade-long attempt to recover copyright damages. The battle began between these tech giants when Google designed its Android software platform for mobile devices, such as smartphones. The platform allows “computer programmers to develop new programs and applications” for Android-based devices. In designing the mobile platform, Google independently developed most of the code but copied what the parties referred to as “declaring code” for 37 application programming interfaces, or APIs. The declaring code in APIs “enables a set of shortcuts for programmers.” A programmer can select a particular task from the API’s task library without having to learn anything more than a simple command, thus allowing the programmer to use a library of prewritten code to carry out complex tasks without having to write the code from scratch.
At the time Google was developing the Android platform, many software developers were using Sun Microsystems’ Java programming language and its popular Java SE platform. Oracle, shortly after acquiring Sun Microsystems in 2010, accused Google of taking critical portions of the APIs in the Java code for unauthorized use in its Android platform. While Google independently developed the underlying code for the tasks, Google copied the declaring code for certain tasks “useful to programmers working on applications for mobile devices.” “Without that copying, programmers would need to learn an entirely new system to call up the same tasks.” With the “structure, sequence, and organization” of the APIs so similar, Oracle alleged Google infringed its copyrights.
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