- Oracle and Google are scheduled to face off before the US Supreme Court on March 24.
- The 10-year-old dispute is based on Oracle’s claim that Google stole a key component of its Java technology to build the Android operating system.
- Google rejects the charge, saying Oracle cannot copyright the code — known as APIs, or application programming interfaces — which allows programs to talk to each other.
- The Trump administration, through Solicitor General Noel Francisco, argues that Google is using an “idiosyncratic approach.”
- Roughly two dozen other groups, including The Motion Picture Association and the Recording Industry Association of America, have also filed “amicus” briefs backing Oracle.
- The groups have put forward a range of different arguments and legal theories to make the case against Google.
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It was Oracle’s turn this week to tout the groups and personalities that are rallying around its upcoming Supreme Court showdown with Google.
The tech giant’s endorsers included a heavy hitter: the Trump administration.
More than two dozen parties filed Supreme Court declarations, known as “amicus briefs,” endorsing Oracle’s position in the legal brawl. The tech giant got a big boost from the White House with the endorsement of Solicitor General Noel Francisco, a Trump appointee.
The Trump administration endorsement became controversial. Francisco filed his brief the same day Oracle founder Larry Ellison held a fundraising dinner for Trump in Southern California, which sparked an employee protest at Oracle.
Oracle also won the support of the Recording Industry Association of America, the Songwriters Guild, and the News Media Alliance, as well as major tech figures, such as Joe Tucci, the former CEO of EMC and Scott McNealy, the former CEO and cofounder of Sun Microsystems, which created Java and which was acquired by Oracle in 2010.
The dispute is based on Oracle’s claim that Google stole a key component of its Java technology to build the Android operating system. Google rejects the charge, saying Oracle cannot copyright the code — known as APIs, or application programming interfaces — which allows programs to talk to each other.
The two companies are scheduled to face off before the Supreme Court on March 24.
Here are all the different groups supporting Oracle as it goes to the Supreme Court, and here’s why they think Google must be stopped.
The Trump administration
Google’s “idiosyncratic approach would seem to allow any copyist to carve out the most popular parts of a pre-existing work, on the ground that familiar content is likely to make the second work more commercially appealing to admirers of the first. That result would be antithetical to the purposes of copyright,”writes Solicitor General Noel Francisco, who was appointed by President Trump in 2017.
The “wholesale copying of thousands of lines of copyrighted code into a competing commercial product for the purpose of attracting developers familiar with the copyright owner’s work, while causing actual commercial harm to the copyright owner, is not fair use.”
Music industry groups including the Recording Industry Association of America and the National Music Publishers Association
These organizations say they “rely on copyright to protect these works and at the same time respect the limits of copyright when their creative works contain or are inspired by other works … depend on an appropriately balanced fair use doctrine that furthers the purposes of copyright law, including the rights to control the reproduction and distribution of copyrighted works, to create derivative works, and to license the creation of derivative works.”
News Media Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group that represents more 2,000 news media organizations in the US and internationally
“Google’s argument would demote certain highly valuable and socially useful works to second-class copyright citizenship. … Google advocates for an overly formulaic, percentage-based approach to examining the ‘amount and substantiality’ of the portion of Oracle’s computer code that it used in relation to the copyrighted work as a whole. Such an approach ignores qualitative analysis regarding the significance of what was taken, and relies on what can often be arbitrary factors that dictate the metes and bounds of the copyrighted ‘work’ in question.”
Scott McNealy, former CEO and cofounder of Sun Microsystems
Sun Microsystems was the creator of Java. McNealy was the Chairman of Sun, when Oracle acquired the company in 2010.
“Google argues in part that this code is not copyrightable because it is merely functional, like labels in a file cabinet. The idea is that no one should be able to copyright what is (supposedly) the mere organization of generic folders and drawers. But this is a woeful mischaracterization of the artful design of the Java packages, and is an insult to the hard-working developers at Sun who made Java such a success,” says McNealy.
“Sun had unlimited options in writing the Java packages, and made creative choices so that the code would resonate with programmers and be intuitive to how they think. The declaring code is therefore less like a file cabinet, and more like a detailed table of contents, with chapter and subchapter headings, and topic sentences that forms an integral part of a well-written book. It is this very elegance that made Java popular, and gave Google the incentive to copy it.”
Joe Tucci, former longtime CEO of data storage giant EMC
“Clear, settled, consistent rules for copyright protection are essential to foster investment and innovation, particularly with respect to software,” says Tucci, who led EMC before it was acquired by Dell in 2015.
“The principles of copyrightability that Google advances in this case would, if adopted, unnecessarily create uncertainty and doubt among software innovators and their licensees.”
Synopsys, a leading chip design software company based in Silicon Valley
“Synopsys submits this amicus brief to challenge the notion, offered by Google and its amici, that the copying of someone else’s code is a mainstay of the computer programming world. It is simply not true that ‘everybody does it,’ and that software piracy allows for lawful innovative entrepreneurship, as Google suggests. Google’s proposed re-interpretation of copyright law would strip software developers of their ability to protect their unique expressions.”
And here’s what Google says
Google’s supporters filed their Supreme Court amicus briefs last month, including declarations from tech giants IBM, Microsoft and Red Hat, which is now owned by IBM.
“A remarkable range of consumers, developers, computer scientists, and businesses agree that open software interfaces promote innovation and that no single company should be able to monopolize creativity by blocking software tools from working together,” Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda told Business Insider in an email on Thursday. “Openness and interoperability have helped developers create a variety of new products that consumers use to communicate, work, and play across different platforms.”