Google Avoids $9 Billion Oracle Lawsuit With ‘Fair Use’ Excuse

Google Avoids $9 Billion Oracle Lawsuit With Fair Use Claim

Is Google using ‘fair use’ as an excuse?

Yesterday, a jury in a California District Federal court threw out Oracle’s claim that Google stole code and abused copyrighted information.  The judge declared that the search giant’s use of code in Android was fair use, not theft, which frees the tech giant of any liability whatsoever.

Oracle originally filed the lawsuit in 2010, claiming that Google had stolen key elements from their application and incorporated these features into Android.  The battle has been raging ever since, and Oracle was seeking just short of $9 billion for the improper use of their code.

In 2014, a federal appeals court determined that Oracle may have a viable copyright claim on the API code.  But, the courts have sided with search engine giant after their convincing excuse of ‘fair use’, ultimately allowing use of the code without invalidating Oracle’s copyright.

In a statement, Robert Van Nest Google’s lead lawyer said, ”we’re grateful for the jury’s verdict.”

A Google spokesperson added…

“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.”


Comments from Oracle were very much opposing,  Dorian Daley, Oracle’s general counsel, offered the following retort:

”We strongly believe that Google developed Android by illegally copying core Java technology to rush into the mobile device market. Oracle brought this lawsuit to put a stop to Google’s illegal behavior. We believe there are numerous grounds for appeal and we plan to bring this case back to the Federal Circuit on appeal.”

9 Responses

  1. Anonymous

    It’s incredible that these leeches get away with everything.

    They can’t create anything, just steal other people’s property.

  2. Troglite

    Sorry, but you’ve fundamentally misunderstood. The developer community would have been concerned if Oracle had prevailed. Developers are increasingly reliant on open source libraries. Their concern was based on the potential introduction of new legal liabilities around that common practice and the licenses involved. Its a complex topic. I won’t even try to address it in a comprehensive manner or pass judgement on whether the ruling is actually good or bad.

    • Anonymous

      You can explain it very easily: Was the code that Google stole- original code written by Oracle, or was it based on open-source? Simple question.

        • Troglite

          I’may not going to apologize for having better things to do than educate musicians about common practices in software development? Geesh.

          No.. it is not as simple as determining if Java is offered under a valid open source license. Not even close. To understand even the most basic considerations, you have to understand the difference between a declared public interface and the internal implementation of the functionality associated with that interface. I rather doubt most DMN readers understand this… why would they??

          If you would like to increase your understanding, I suggest starting here:

          One common use of the techniques described in that article is to replace an existing integration between two software products by a third vendor.

          Application 1 communicated with application 2 through a defined public interface written by the company that owns the source code for application 2.

          Now, let’s say I enter the picture as the owner of a company that sells application #3 as a wholesale replacement for application #2. The cost my customers woukd incur by rewriting all of those integrations coukd be very high… and may prevent me from closing sales. Since my application frequently competes with application #2, I may decide to write my own code to implement the same declared public interfaces but substitute my own internal implementations to act against my product instead of application #2.

          The company who owns the source code for application #2 may not be very happy about this and may seek legal avenues to prevent it. This happens within both open source and proprietary applications, so the considerations have a very broad implication in the marketplace.

          In this particular example, my understanding is that Google was effectively trying to support applications written in Java without licensing the Java virtual machine from Oracle. So, any application written in Java would use the same declared public interfaces, but Google’s internal functional implementation would be executed instead of Oracle’s.

          So far, several new precedents have been introduced that may or may not stand-up to an appeal. First, the declared interfaces contain no functionality… which limits their ability to be protected as intellectual property. Second, the declared public interfaces can be protected by copyright. Finally, the impact of the protections afforded by copyright are negligible because nearly any use appears to fall under the definitions of fair use.

          There are many reasons to think one or more of these precedents will be overturned on appeal. To my knowledge, Android never actually offered support for Java applications. If the code in question has never been used commercially, the financial damages incurred may be $0. If this code had been used successfully to support java applications on Android, then it may still fail to meet the standard of a transformative use. After all, the overarching business intention was to make these java applications behave in exactly the same manner as they would when running on Oracle’s java virtual machine.

          And that seems like a perfect place to end this ridulously long post because it points to one of the only relevant considerations for a musician. The interpretation of “fair use” within the US courts has been inconsistent at best. The judges hardly understand the concept let alone a jury.

  3. Remi Swierczek

    Music is also the victim of FAIR USE!
    Unbelievable how large portion of Google’s well being relies on twisted interpretation of outdated FAIR USE. Let’s get new one and next day convert 100,000 Radio stations to simple music stores.

    • Jose Fritz

      FYI: There are only about 15,000 radio stations in the U.S. Your hyperbole is noted.

  4. doos

    oh yeah i forgot. the industry only believes in fair use when it can use it.


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