Follow Slashdot stories on Twitter


Forgot your password?
Google Oracle The Courts Android Government Java Operating Systems Programming Software The Almighty Buck The Internet News Build Technology

Android Is 'Fair Use' As Google Beats Oracle In $9 Billion Lawsuit ( 243

infernalC writes: Ars Technica is reporting that the verdict is in, and that the jury decided that Google's duplication of several Java interfaces is fair use. Ars Technica writes that Google's Android OS does not infringe upon Oracle-owned copyrights because its re-implementation of 37 Java APIs is protected by "fair use." The jury unanimously answered "yes" in response to whether or not Google's use of Java APIs was a "fair use" under copyright law. The trial is now over, since Google won. "Google's win somewhat softens the blow to software developers who previously thought programming language APIs were free to use," Ars Technica writes. "It's still the case that APIs can be protected by copyright under the law of at least one appeals court. However, the first high-profile attempt to control APIs with copyright law has now been stymied by a "fair use" defense." The amount Oracle may have asked for in damages could have been as much as $9 billion.
This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Android Is 'Fair Use' As Google Beats Oracle In $9 Billion Lawsuit

Comments Filter:
  • Thank Jesus... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 26, 2016 @04:51PM (#52190637)

    Sometimes, juries do the right/sane thing.

    Now PLEASE, supreme court, et al, don't let this warm feeling go away by overturning this.

    • Sometimes, juries do the right/sane thing

      And equally, Oracle did the wrong thing as judged by their peers.

    • Re:Thank Jesus... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by catchblue22 ( 1004569 ) on Friday May 27, 2016 @01:23AM (#52192979) Homepage

      Larry Ellison is a selfish hypocritical right wing fuck who was willing to wreck the entire software industry for his own personal gain.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 26, 2016 @04:57PM (#52190699)

    I think Oracle needs to change to a new company motto, like "Don't Be Evil!".

    • by gtall ( 79522 )

      More to the point, Uncle Larry should change himself to "Don't Be Evil".

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward
        But then he would no longer be:

    • I think Oracle needs to change to a new company motto, like "Don't Be Evil!".

      Needs to be adapted for Oracle: "Don't be a Scum Sucking Slimeball".

  • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Thursday May 26, 2016 @05:02PM (#52190733) Journal

    The trial is now over,

    Oracle has threatened to appeal (because of the way the instructions to the jury were phrased), and in fact has filed a motion for JOML, which would overturn the jury's decision (basically they asked the judge to evaluate the evidence and determine whether a non-descript 'reasonable' jury would find it fair use).

    So expect this to last for the rest of the year at least.

    • ... non-descript 'reasonable' jury ...

      A company owned by Larry Ellison wants to use the word "reasonable"?

      • The exact quote from Oracle lawyers is, "No reasonable jury could find that Google’s verbatim and entirely commercial use of the declaring code and SSO to compete against the Java platform was a fair use."
        • by wierd_w ( 1375923 ) on Thursday May 26, 2016 @05:57PM (#52191157)

          That's a no true scottsman, straight up!

          It begs the question, that if the jury finds against Oracle, the jury is defacto unreasonable!

          Why even HAVE a jury?!

          No, the assertion is a logical fallacy, and a classic one at that. Oracle needs to define, explicitly, why it feels the instructions to the jury that has already decided the fact of the case that has now concluded were in any way improper.

          That it cannot find one, and has to resort to "But, the verdict is unreasonable! I demand the other verdict!" as its justification, indicates that oracle does not have grounds for appeal.

          Logical fallacies of international renown like this do not belong in the decision matrix of the legal system. Period.

          • by phantomfive ( 622387 ) on Thursday May 26, 2016 @06:09PM (#52191233) Journal

            That's a no true scottsman, straight up!

            It sounds like it to you, but in court there are legal definitions for things like "reasonable jury" and Oracle will need to prove that their case fits that definition.

            • by wierd_w ( 1375923 ) on Friday May 27, 2016 @04:02AM (#52193387)

              According to Nolo, it means exactly what I think it means.


              In the context of a "reasonable jury", it would relate to a jury that is ordinary, rational, or appropriate.

              The no true scottsman appellation stands: Oracle is straight up saying that a jury that fails to see things its way is not an ordinary, rational, or appropriate jury.

              The assertion that there is a specific meaning to the phrase "reasonable jury" outside of this more generic use of the legal definition of the word "reasonable" does not seem to bear fruit. I have searched many different online legal dictionaries for the term, and come up empty. If there is such a specific use of the art, I would be glad to have it defined for me.

              As best I can interpret, Oracle is stating that because Google's use is clearly commercial in nature, that the use cannot be a fair use, and takes this as a presupposition for its subsequent intent in the statement-- that no reasonable jury (as in, one that is aware of what constitutes fair use, and uses reason) would conclude that Google's use falls under that category.

              It is a no true scottsman, because of this presupposition-- It begs the question.

              To counter this line of argument that Oracle is employing, let us instead consider what an API is, and what role it plays in communication.

              An API is a specification. Essentially, it is a codified set of definitions for terms, and methods of employment that are permitted within a system of communication. It is roughly analogous to a lexicon for a given written or verbal language.
              EG-- a dictionary.

              With this in mind, we can point out the fallacy of Oracle's statement, by replacing a few words.

              "No reasonable jury could find that Googleâ(TM)s verbatim and entirely commercial use of the dictionary and stated grammar to compete against our written works was a fair use."

              Basically, Oracle is presupposing that it owns a language, so any use of that language's lexicon and grammar is theirs to control-- and assert that they get this power through copyright.

              Copyright provides restrictions on reproduction and use of fixed media (be it written words, moving pictures, photographs, or audio recordings--)-- it does not cover subject matter. EG, if I paint a nice still-life of some daisies, I don't get to claim ownership over the concept of painting still lifes of daisies. Only over the reproduction of my specific image of daisies.

              The court demonstrated that the API documents created by Oracle can be copyrighted-- They can control the dissemination and distribution of those documents, and only those documents. They do not hold any authority over the concepts expressed in the documents. EG-- they don't own the rights to all pictures of daisies-- even if they invented daisies.

              One could claim that the VM Google uses (whatever it is called these days) is a derivative work of the Java virtual machine. This is a tricky area legally-- Copyright is not the appropriate vehicle for this kind of intellectual property. (Patents are the appropriate vehicle.) The API documents describe the language and behavior used by the java virtual machine. Google has created a different virtual machine that uses the same language.

              At best, the case Oracle can make here is that google copied, verbatim, their dictionary instead of writing their own. The problem, as demonstrated in court, is that there can only be one definition, and the definition given is absolutely precise, as required for a computer language. There are no other ways to rephrase or rewrite the dictionary to make it into a new literary work referencing the same language.

              Again, the copyright is over the documents, not the language.

              This is why the jury found the use to be a non-infringing, fair use.

              An outcome that Oracle insists cannot happen, because "reasons", and that any jury that finds otherwise is not reasonable-- Nevermind that the way they reached the verdict was through application of reason and fairness.

              No True Scottsman confirmed.

          • Oracle needs to define, explicitly, why it feels the instructions to the jury that has already decided the fact of the case that has now concluded were in any way improper.

            I'm pretty sure they'll have a problem with that one seeing as both parties had to agree the text of the jury instructions

          • by pr100 ( 653298 )

            Well - in England at least we don't really use juries in civil claims - it's theoretically possible, but it never really happens in practice.

            We do have jury trials for (serious) criminal cases.

    • by rsilvergun ( 571051 ) on Thursday May 26, 2016 @05:28PM (#52190939)
      The Judge generally weighs the jury's ruling pretty strongly. I honestly thought the jury would rule against google. Juries tend to be very conservative and they tend to side first with property rights. Oracle had some fairly compelling arguments too. Ars has the slides they showed the jury and their slick as all hell get out. The fact that it was ruled you could copyright declarations kinda sucked too. Oracle now has an uphill fight on their hands.
      • Oracle now has an uphill fight on their hands.


        The Judge generally weighs the jury's ruling pretty strongly. I honestly thought the jury would rule against google

        Here are the instructions that were given to the jury []. They are dense and difficult to understand; it would have taken me a day or so to really get a good understanding of them and how they apply to the case. I don't think the jurors tried to understand them, given how quickly they finished.

        My guess is the jurors opened the source code to Android, saw how big it is, then opened the source code to the Java APIs, saw it was very small in comparison, and said, "ok, it's so small that it's surely fai

        • The fact that the jury instructions are dense and difficult to understand and that the Jury came back so quickly I think probably gives Oracle pretty reasonable grounds to appeal and have that appeal taken seriously.
      • Judges used to routinely overrule juries but the Supreme court mostly stopped this a few years ago. Current Supreme court precedent on this is that the Juries ruling is sacrosanct. About the only appeal Oracle can make at this point that has any chance is that the Jury instructions were wrong. They've announced plans for this appeal already but it's a major uphill battle on that, especially if they didn't challenge the instructions originally.

    • by dgatwood ( 11270 )

      ... and in fact has filed a motion for JOML ...

      You've been using Java too much []. I think you mean JMOL [].


  • Larry Ellison won't be getting a new super-mega yacht.
  • In court it's not over until all the appeals are exhausted. Oracle will appeal this.

  • Rubbish! (Score:4, Funny)

    by grub ( 11606 ) <> on Thursday May 26, 2016 @05:23PM (#52190895) Homepage Journal

    I bet Google made a secret deal with the judge to expunge his entire search history.
    • by swb ( 14022 )

      His search history is now Serious Legal Stuff, baseball and some cat videos.

  • 11,500 lines of code (Score:3, Interesting)

    by mhenley ( 542737 ) on Thursday May 26, 2016 @05:24PM (#52190897)
    Oracle's Lawyer stated: "They copied 11,500 lines of code," Oracle attorney Peter Bicks said during closing arguments. "It's undisputed. They took the code, they copied it, and put it right into Android." My understanding is that google used the api's but wrote their own implementation, what does he base that accusation on?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 26, 2016 @05:34PM (#52190981)

      I copied 1 line of subjects. It's undisputed. I took your subject, I copied it, and put it right into my post.

    • by ledow ( 319597 ) on Thursday May 26, 2016 @05:40PM (#52191025) Homepage

      For "code", read "lines from header files to ensure that their strlen() function - or whatever - took the same parameters in the same order as our one, when they were trying to make an independent, but compatible, reimplementation".

      It's like Intel saying "They copied our circuit diagram, hundreds of pins on a layout and what they do" when someone's making, say, a chip compatible with an x86 motherboard. Nobody's suggesting that the chip they made wasn't developed entirely independently, they're saying they "own" the fact that pin 1 is 5v, pin 2 is GND, pin 3 is DATA1, etc.

    • by bmk67 ( 971394 ) on Thursday May 26, 2016 @06:02PM (#52191187)

      It's not code (as in executable code), they are interface classes - declarations if you will - which implement no functionality at all but only specify how to interact with a subsystem.

      Oracle is engaging in hyperbole.

      • It's also a good argument for the continued use and existence of header files. Many languages are doing away with them, making the implementation effectively the declaration. That trend will make cases like this harder to argue in the future.
        • Eh. It's not that hard to do. It'd be relatively easy to have some software which strips out just the public declarations from any piece of code, given a little bit of understanding of the underlying language.
      • by pr100 ( 653298 )

        For the purposes of copyright it surely doesn't matter whether it's "executable code" or not - the question is whether copyright subsists in it and whether it was copied.

        I haven't followed this case closely, but as I understand it the ruling is that the copyright subsists in the relevant code and it was copied, but that copying is not a copyright infringement because it falls under the "fair use" exemption.

  • I'm sure there will be appeals and Oracle will keep pushing the issue, but for now, it's a good thing. Frankly, it'll keep people using Java for longer, which helps Oracle a bit. Of course, Oracle and IBM are just fine locking people into insanely expensive middleware platforms too.

    Personally. I'd more than like to see Java fade into maturity. It's clunky, verbose and many of the frameworks they use are showing their age. Of course, I'm biased having done recent work in C#. I've just gotten very used to it'

  • Stop using Java (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Alomex ( 148003 ) on Thursday May 26, 2016 @05:35PM (#52190985) Homepage

    After this, if I still had my company, I wouldn't touch Java with a ten foot pole. I'd be at the whim of whatever Oracle executive failed to meet last quarter figures. Find a true unencumbered language and use that instead.

    • You'd only be in the same boat as Google if you worked on and released your own implementation of Java without Oracles blessing. This ruling has no bearing on using the Java API's to write your own code.
    • And how do you do that ? No seriously converting code base to another language is not trivial, then retraining programmers, and so forth. What do you suggest is akin to java ? Seriously ? Because you realize that what you suggest also cost a lot of money, and really the risk of continuying using java by now is near nil.
  • That's awesome.

    Now they just have to deal with Oracle spending out the ass on followup lawsuits on this to increase everyone's financial burden on this.

  • by flink ( 18449 ) on Thursday May 26, 2016 @06:27PM (#52191325)

    It's great Google won and all, but fair use doesn't really protect the average developer. Fair use is an affirmative defense. In order to assert fair use, you have to get sued, refuse to settle, and then prove that your use is a fair use in a court of law. That will almost always get prohibitively expensive very quickly as this case has shown.

    The real solutions is to make APIs not covered by copyright at all, like a directory listing or mathematical formula. I think Oracle should be able to copyright the implementation of Java, and obviously they have the right to restrict the use of the Java trademark, but the APIs should just be public domain.

    • Agreed. The copyright decision by the appeals court was just horrible, and as the article suggestions, this only softens the blow, but the big elephant is still in the room.

      I think a better example would be a different sized tire. Other manufacturers can also make replacement tires of the same size. Or a radiator. It would be like Honda suing a generic manufacturer for making a radiator that fit the connections in a Honda. You don't have exclusive use for the size and shape of the connections.

    • The real solutions is to make APIs not covered by copyright at all, like a directory listing or mathematical formula.

      That would be ideal. But a close second is if all developers refuse to use APIs unless the copyright owner releases them under some sort of open license guaranteeing you won't be sued for just using the API.

      Oracle's shenanigans have gone a long way towards guaranteeing that will happen. Before if you advocated the company use open source software libraries, the legal department would po

  • According to Bloomberg [],

    Oracle Co-Chief Executive Officer Safra Catz invoked the Ten Commandments to characterize Google as acting above the law. Catz told jurors that, at a bat mitzvah in 2012, Google General Counsel Kent Walker told her, “You know, Safra, Google is this really special company, and the old rules don’t apply to us.”

    “I immediately said, ‘Thou shalt not steal,’” Catz testified. “It’s an oldie but goodie.”

    Wow. If that's true, then Kent Walker should learn to not say things like that - even in a non-business setting.

    • Walker probably said nothing contentious. Safra probably just made it seem that way, to benefit Oracle's case.

      There's no indication that Walker was referring to criminal or societal laws when he said that 'old rules don't apply to us'. He was more likely referring to rules for business. If he'd meant laws he'd have said laws, not rules.

  • by Timmy D Programmer ( 704067 ) on Thursday May 26, 2016 @07:38PM (#52191747) Journal
    Microsoft's move to open source,and set free some very powerful programming tools, carries well into this story. Developers choose Java because it was believed to be free/open But as far as Oracle is concerned, it's not. I really do think .net core can fill this role now.
  • by Todd Knarr ( 15451 ) on Thursday May 26, 2016 @08:10PM (#52191885) Homepage

    I'd love to see IBM take a swing at this one, seeing as the original decision that allowed non-IBM PC-compatible machines to be created turned on the question of whether creating a BIOS that exposed the exact same interface as IBM's BIOS infringed on IBM's copyright if all other code could be proven to be entirely original. Under this decision the answer would be "Yes.", and IBM would be owed damages for every single PC created using a non-IBM BIOS that had any trace of the legacy BIOS API in it (at a minimum every BIOS that wasn't completely UEFI-only).

    It might also be entertaining to analyze the effects of this ruling on Oracle's use of GPL- and LGPL-licensed glibc and kernel header files in their products that run on Linux. Neither license quite directly addresses the question of copying copyrighted API declarations into object files and executables. They address linking of various sorts, and copying into source code, but this particular aspect's deemed outside the scope of the license and thus not addressed.

  • Oracle may have asked for in damages could have been as much as $9 billion.

    I love these stories. It's like opening a box of Cracker Jack and finding a free random number in the bottom. It's never prime, however. It's always of the form p * q * r * s.

  •, hiring a mock jury of people from the street to sit and listen, with a good defense lawyer to mock-represent the Google side.

    Then repeating over and over until juries are more often than not swayed in Oracle's favor, then with such sharpened arguments going for the real thing.

    Kind of like how NASA went to the moon, except without any nobility in the endeavor.

Forty two.