Today, the Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Oracle’s consequential legal case against Google.
- At issue: Oracle is demanding $9 billion in damages over what it calls illegal use of its software. Some have called it the “copyright case of the century,” and it’s been marinating awhile; the case was filed in 2010.
The backstory: To make the operating system for its Android smartphone, Google developers used a component—the application programming interface, or API—of the programming language and development platform Java. Oracle now owns Java.
So Oracle says it’s owed $$$. A jury sided with Google initially, but then two appeals court decisions favored Oracle. Google says its use of the API is protected by what lawyers call “fair use.”
A lot is at stake here. APIs are a central, if legally hazy, pillar of modern software development—developers have assumed they’re fair game for ~20 years. Experts worry an Oracle win would mean the consolidation of legal power among Big Tech’s software giants and a rockier path for startups.
Via Morning Brew