News You (Maybe) Can Use --- SCOTUS Issues Opinion in Oracle v. Google Java API Battle

Preliminary Note: This is my personal commentary on what I believe to be an important copyright decision, likely having a favorable impact on the open source community. It is not intended to create a flame-war over this topic, which has been broadly divisive in the wider software community.

After a very long (years long) battle, the US Supreme Court has just ruled in favor of Google’s use of certain Java API -related code owned by Oracle. Oracle had been seeking $9 Billion dollars in damages from Google.

The holding (the most important part) of the SCOTUS decision was that Google’s use of certain elements of the Oracle Java API within Android was a fair use under US Copyright law.

“Google’s purpose was to create a different task-related system for a different computing environment (smartphones) and to create a platform—the Android platform—that would help achieve and popularize that objective. The record demonstrates numerous ways in which reimplementing an interface can further the development of computer programs. Google’s purpose was therefore consistent with that creative progress that is the basic constitutional objective of copyright itself.”

In my opinion, this likely will be seen as a win by the open source community. Google’s use was clearly commercial in nature, and yet it has now been held to be fair use under the US Copyright Act.

No doubt, this was a battle of corporate giants, but it is one that will likely have an important impact on global software development and use. My belief is that the line has now been better defined and brightened for careful use of certain aspects of proprietary code within the FLOSS development/ ecosystem.

The decision runs some 62 pages in length. Although it is easily found and publicly available, If anyone would like a copy in .pdf format, please feel free to PM me.


As much as I hate seeing Google win, I am on principle opposed to any form of copyright so any ruling like this is welcome in my opinion.


I still think copyright is better than software patents! It’s just that copyright term has been overextended…


While I understand the sentiment, we shouldn’t forget that “copyleft”—the legal basis from which FLOSS derives its various licensing models—is effectuated via contractual licensing terms, which are, in turn, underpinned by traditional “copyright” law and principals.

We don’t want to bite the hand that feeds us! IMHO, today’s case has “fed” us well.


Sure, but we wouldn’t need copyleft if there wasn’t copyright.

I agree. But the fact it is “better” does not mean it is good.

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depend what in it for Oracle, money or other opportunities for them…

Free ZFS!


The opinion may be that it is fair use but Google will end up profiting more off of it than Oracle. Is that really fair? Google didn’t come up with it and if the shoe was on the other foot i don’t think Google would be too eager to share for free. So I’m not so sure i agree that this is a good thing. I would rather see agreement by the two parties in writing.