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Supreme Court Backs Google in Landmark Copyright Case

Justices say company doesn't owe Oracle over use of its code
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Apr 5, 2021 10:01 AM CDT

(Newser) – The Supreme Court sided with Google in an $8 billion copyright dispute with Oracle on Monday. The case has to do with Google's creation of the Android operating system, now used on the vast majority of smartphones worldwide, per the AP. To create Android, which was released in 2007, Google wrote millions of lines of new computer code. But it also used 11,330 lines of code and an organization that's part of Oracle's Java platform. Google says what it did is long-settled, common practice in the industry, a practice that has been good for technical progress. And it says there's no copyright protection for the purely functional, noncreative computer code it used, something that couldn't be written another way. Oracle, however, says Google "committed an egregious act of plagiarism," and it sued.

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"In reviewing that decision, we assume, for argument's sake, that the material was copyrightable," Justice Stephen Breyer wrote. "But we hold that the copying here at issue nonetheless constituted a fair use. Hence, Google's copying did not violate the copyright law." The case has been going on for a decade. Justices ruled 6-2 in Google's favor. Only eight justices heard the case because it was argued in October, after the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg but before Justice Amy Coney Barrett joined the court. Politico sees it as a landmark ruling, one that "sets new precedent in how US copyright law applies to the computer code underpinning the American tech industry."

(Read more Google stories.)

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