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Supreme Court of the United States
October 7, 2020, Argued; April 5, 2021, Decided
[*1190] Justice Breyer delivered the opinion of the Court.
Oracle America, Inc., is the current owner of a copyright in Java SE, a computer program that uses the popular Java computer programming language. Google, without permission, has copied a portion of that program, a portion that enables a programmer to call up prewritten software that, together with the computer’s hardware, will carry out a large number of specific tasks. The lower courts have considered (1) whether Java SE’s owner could copyright the portion that Google copied, and (2) if so, whether Google’s copying nonetheless constituted a “fair use” of that material, thereby freeing Google from copyright liability. The Federal Circuit held in Oracle’s favor (i.e., that the portion is [***9] copyrightable and Google’s copying did not constitute a “fair use”). In reviewing that decision, we assume, for argument’s sake, that the material was copyrightable. But we hold that the copying here at issue nonetheless constituted a fair use. Hence, Google’s copying did not violate the copyright law.
In 2005, Google acquired Android, Inc., a startup firm that hoped to become involved in smartphone software. Google sought, through Android, to develop a software platform for mobile devices like smartphones. 886 F. 3d 1179, 1187 (CA Fed. 2018); App. 137-138, 242-243. A platform provides the necessary infrastructure for computer programmers to develop new programs and applications. One might think of a software platform as a kind of factory floor where computer programmers (analogous to autoworkers, designers, or manufacturers) might come, use sets of tools found there, and create new applications for use in, say, smartphones. (For visual explanations of “platforms” and other somewhat specialized computer-related terms, you might want to look at the material in Appendix A, infra.)
[**321] Google envisioned an Android platform that was free and open, such that software developers could use the tools found there free of charge. [***10] Its idea was that more and more developers using its Android platform would develop ever more Android-based applications, all of which would make Google’s Android-based smartphones more attractive to ultimate consumers. Consumers would then buy and use ever more of those phones. Oracle America, Inc. v. Google Inc., 872 F. Supp. 2d 974, 978 (ND Cal. 2012); App. 111, 464. That vision required attracting a sizeable number of skilled programmers.
Full case includes Shepard's, Headnotes, Legal Analytics from Lex Machina, and more.
141 S. Ct. 1183 *; 209 L. Ed. 2d 311 **; 2021 U.S. LEXIS 1864 ***; 2021 U.S.P.Q.2D (BNA) 391; 28 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 727; 2021 WL 1240906
GOOGLE LLC, PETITIONER v. ORACLE AMERICA, INC.
Notice: The LEXIS pagination of this document is subject to change pending release of the final published version.
Subsequent History: As Revised April 6, 2021.
Prior History: [***1] ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR THE FEDERAL CIRCUIT
Oracle Am., Inc. v. Google LLC, 886 F.3d 1179, 2018 U.S. App. LEXIS 7794, 2018 WL 1473875 (Fed. Cir., Mar. 27, 2018)
Disposition: 886 F. 3d 1179, reversed and remanded.
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Copyright Law, Subject Matter, Statutory Copyright & Fixation, Scope of Protection, Fixation Requirement, Original Works of Authorship, Protected Subject Matter, Architectural Works, Literary Works, Computer Programs, Dramatic Works, Musical Works, Audiovisual Works & Motion Pictures, Motion Pictures, Expression & Idea Distinguished, Limited Protection for Ideas, Civil Infringement Actions, Defenses, Fair Use, Sound Recordings After 1972, Ownership Rights, Performances, Limitations, Displays, Fair Use, Fair Use Determination, Fair Use Determination, Factors, Governments, Legislation, Interpretation, Computer & Internet Law, Copyright Protection, Civil Infringement, Determinations, Scope of Copyright Protection, Collective & Derivative Works, Derivative Works, Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, Questions of Fact & Law, Trials, Jury Trials, Right to Jury Trial, Constitutional Law, Bill of Rights, Fundamental Rights, Trial by Jury in Civil Actions, Preliminary Considerations, Equity, Relief