January 2015

Will the Supreme Court Take Google’s Appeal in the Android-Java Copyright Case?

January 14, 2015

The fact that the Supreme Court has asked the Obama Administration (via the Office of the Solicitor General) to comment on Google’s application for certiorari in Oracle v. Google* has focused renewed interest on this case – not that it needs it. The case, if the Supreme Court accepts it, could be a replay of Lotus v. Borland, an important software copyright case the Supreme Court tried but failed to decide in 1996, when the Court deadlocked 4-4 (one justice abstaining). For detailed procedural and substantive back ground on this case see these earlier posts: How Google Could Lose on Appeal; Oral Argument in Oracle v. Google: A Setback for Google?; CAFC Reverses Judge Alsup – Java API Declaring Code Held Copyrightable; Google Rolls the Dice, Files Cert Petition in Oracle Copyright Case. I also made a presentation to the Boston Bar Association on this case before the CAFC decision, slides here. The issue is this: computer software — both source code and object code — is protected by copyright law so long as it meets copyright’s statutory requirements, the most important of which, for purposes of the case discussed in this post, is originality. At issue are the 7,000 lines of “declaring code” of Oracle’s Java API software. This software was copied by Google when it implemented the Android smartphone operating system. The Java API declaring code clearly satisfies copyright law’s requirement of “originality.” The issue,…

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