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Google vs. Oracle moves to fair use debate in district court

The Supreme Court rejected Google's appeal in the Google vs. Oracle court case. Now, Google's last chance is to prove its use of Java API falls under fair use.

When the Supreme Court rejected Google's appeal, it didn't put an end to the Google vs. Oracle court case. Now, the lawsuit moves back to a San Francisco federal district court for deliberations about fair use of APIs.

However, the Supreme Court justices did hand Google a setback by refusing to hear the appeal and the company now has few, if any, opportunities left to defend its stance that APIs should not be subject to copyright law. The appeal was an attempt to halt Oracle's software copyright lawsuit and to limit the amount to which software makers could gain exclusive rights via copyright laws. Instead, the new court cases will focus on whether Google can successfully argue its usage of Java APIs qualifies as fair use.

Fair use is a limitation to the exclusivity of the rights granted by copyright law. It allows some limited use of materials under copyright without securing permission from the rights holders. However, only some types of usage fall under fair use; for instance, parody, commentary, citation and search engines.

White House got involved with Google vs. Oracle

The Supreme Court rejected Google's appeal on June 29. The rejection came after justices solicited an opinion from The White House, and U.S. Solicitor General Donald B. Verilli, Jr. recommended that the court not take the case.

In August 2010, Oracle sued Google, claiming that Google had infringed on Oracle's intellectual property by using Java APIs in the Android operating system. In May 2012, in the first Google vs. Oracle court case, a federal district court ruled that the structure of Java APIs was not patentable.

Oracle appealed to a federal court in December 2013, and a ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals in May 2014 reversed the district ruling on the copyright issue in Oracle's favor. This brought APIs under existing copyright laws.

Fair Use Policy

According to the Stanford University Libraries' overview of copyright and fair use policy, there are four factors judges consider when determining a fair use case. These are:

  1. The purpose and character of the use
  2. The nature of the copyrighted work
  3. The amount and substantiality of the portion taken
  4. The effect of the use upon the potential market



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