Copyright

Oracle v. Google: Will The Best Analogy Win?

by Lee Gesmer on January 17, 2020

Oracle v. Google: Will The Best Analogy Win?

 

Analogies, it is true, decide nothing, but they can make one feel more at home – Sigmund Freud

One good analogy is worth three hours discussion – Dudley Field Malone

Oracle v. Google, now before the Supreme Court, is a complicated case in more ways than one. The copyright law issues are difficult, but the case is made even more challenging by its subject matter, which involves highly technical and abstruse computer technology. Judges have a hard enough time applying copyright law to traditional media like music, novels and photographs, but software copyright cases add another order of magnitude of complexity.

The legal briefs now before the Supreme Court are overflowing with computer jargon. You can read all about the “Java language,” the “Java virtual machine,” the “Dalvik virtual machine,” “application programming interfaces (APIs),” “packages,” “classes,” “calls,” “declarations,” “methods,” “implementing code” and “declaring code,” and much more.Read the full article

Oracle v. Google In a Nutshell

by Lee Gesmer on December 6, 2019

Oracle v. Google In a Nutshell

Oracle’s copyright case against Google has dragged on for nine years. The case has generated multiple federal district court trials and appellate decisions. Hundreds of thousands of words have been written on the case. Academic careers have been built on it (OK, I’m exaggerating, but not by much).

Now that the case is before the Supreme Court a new, even larger audience wants to understand it. However, few people want to struggle through the lengthy court decisions or law review articles.

Here is my summary of the issues in the case in a nutshell. Almost all jargon and many details omitted. 

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First Issue – copyrightability. Oracle owns the Java programming language. Part of Java is an application programming interface (“the Java API”). These are pre-written programs that allow programmers to perform common programming tasks. When Google built its Android smartphone operating system it copied verbatim a significant portion (over 11,000 lines) of the Java API.Read the full article

A Few Observations From the Ninth Circuit En Banc Argument in Skidmore v. Led Zeppelin

I have a few observations on the Ninth Circuit September 23, 2019 en banc hearing in Skidmore v. Led Zeppelin. Video of the oral argument is embedded at the bottom of this post, and the transcriptions below are mine – I’ve left out a few words here and there to make this easier to read, but I didn’t leave out anything material.

Did Skidmore’s Attorney Give Away the Case?

Quite possibly.

Here are the key excerpts from the oral argument. (I’m labeling all of the judges’ questions as simply “judge,” but the questions were posed by different judges):

Judge: Are you conceding today that if you are confined to the deposit copy your copyright claims are not viable?

Skidmore Counsel: I think that it is very difficult for plaintiff to win based on the deposit copy since it’s such an inaccurate transcription of the composition ….

Judge: Is that a “yes”?

Read the full article
Copyright Office Backs Led Zeppelin In Ninth Circuit En Banc Appeal

Update (9/25/19): A Few Observations From the Ninth Circuit En Banc Argument in Skidmore v. Led Zeppelin (link)

The appeal in Skidmore v. Led Zeppelin is scheduled to be reargued before an en banc Ninth Circuit appeals court panel on September 23, 2019 (watch it live online here), and the U.S. Copyright Office has taken the unusual step of submitting an amicus brief in support of Led Zeppelin.

This important copyright case is discussed in my October 2018 post, Led Zeppelin, Spirit and a Bustle at the Ninth Circuit, so I won’t review the background in detail here. The works at issue are Spirit’s 1968 song Taurus and the opening section of Led Zeppelin’s Stairway to Heaven. A Ninth Circuit panel reversed the jury’s verdict (verdict here) in favor of Led Zeppelin and sent the case back for retrial based on errors in the jury instructions.Read the full article