The United States Supreme court rejected an appeal from Google after it lost a copyright infringement case against Oracle. The case originally dates back to 2010. It was then that Oracle Corp., the software company behind Java, alleged that Google’s Android OS infringed on copyrighted Java APIs (application programming interfaces). In 2012, a district court found the case in favor of Google, but, in May of last year, the judge’s ruling was overturned when an appeals court ruled in favor of Oracle. As the U.S. Supreme Court has backed off, this could be the ruling that stands, holding that API’s can be copyrighted.
Oracle claimed over $1 billion in damages from the infringement of 37 different APIs. Google argued that even if the APIs in question were subject to copyright law, Google legally used them under fair use section of copyright law.
Google escalated its case to the Supreme Court, claiming that the collection of basic software commands in Oracle’s APIs shouldn’t be subject to copyright laws. Oracle took another tack, claiming that its code was original and creative, thus subject to copyright laws.
Both sides have been lamenting that if the other wins, innovation within the software industry will be stifled. Oracle wants creative code to be protected under copyright law, while Google sees building on existing APIs as a way for new ideas to culminate more quickly.
Some industry insiders are worried how a win for Oracle will impact the software industry. The Electronic Frontier Foundation warns that it could give established API holding tech companies “unprecedented and dangerous power” over independent startups who could need to pay licensing fees to integrate existing APIs into their software.