Google and Oracle: Why are they fighting?

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How it all began

Let’s take a trip back in time. It’s the year 1991. A new programming platform called “Java” is released to the world by Sun Microsystems. It consists of a language, virtual machine and a set of libraries to be used with the language.

Fast forward to 2003 and we see four developers founding a mobile phone platform. This is Android Inc. Later purchased by Google Inc. in 2005 to be used for the same purpose. A beta was released in 2007 with some Java technologies inbuilt to the platform. There were talks about partnerships and licensing deals but nothing further was mentioned.

Oracle Corporation (specializing in ERPs and database management systems) purchased Java in the year 2010 and that’s when things got ugly. No sooner that the takeover of Sun by Oracle was complete, Oracle sued Google, claiming that Google had infringed on intellectual property owned by Oracle by inserting Java APIs (application programmable interfaces) into Android. Supposedly, Google’s brainchild operating system has illegally sampled close to 37 Java APIs.

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Some of the arguments FOR Oracle.

As consolation, Oracle demands a sum of approximately USD $1 billion on copyright claims.

Present tense

The case has still been dragging on, with neither party seeming to be giving in, and it’s gone all the way up to the US Supreme Court. Oracle states that the code Google has used is original and therefore applicable for copyrights; Google responds that the code in question are APIs, which are methods used to work with systems, and that therefore are exempt from copyrights.

The implications should Oracle win the case are quite serious. Most technology used today is based around the concepts that APIs are openly available, but if Oracle were to win the case, we may see a lot more lawsuits being filed. Imagine if Facebook had free license to sue any developer for copyright simply because they used one of their APIs to connect to the platform? Or Instagram? We’d actually be thrown back a few decades in terms of services and software connections.

Note: According to the District court, Oracle cannot claim copyright infringement as it does not meet the criteria for section 102(b) of the Copyrights Act which states that “In no case does copyright protection for an original work of authorship extend to any idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery, regardless of the form in which it is described, explained, illustrated, or embodied in such work”.

The reply with regard to this is due from the Court on the 7th of November 2014.

What is your view regarding this? Who’s right? Who’s wrong? Why? Drop us a message and let us know – or feel free to post here in the comments.

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