Low tech talk in Google, Oracle high tech copyright clash

WASHINGTON (AP) — The topic was high tech: the code behind smartphones.

But on Wednesday the Supreme Court looked to more low tech examples, from the typewriter keyboard to restaurant menus, try to resolve an $8 billion-plus copyright dispute between tech giants Google and Oracle.

The case, which the justices heard by phone because of the coronavirus pandemic, has to do with Google’s creation of the Android operating system now used on the vast majority of smartphones worldwide. In developing Android, Google used some of Oracle’s computer code.

Some justices seemed concerned that a ruling for Oracle could stifle innovation.



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Chief Justice John Roberts was among the justices who turned to examples beyond technology to try to get a handle on the dispute, asking Oracle’s lawyer to imagine opening a new restaurant and creating a menu.

“Of course you’re going to have, you know, appetizers first, then entrees and then desserts. Now you shouldn’t have to worry about whether that organization is copyrighted,” Roberts said, suggesting Oracle’s argument went to far.

But Roberts also had strong words for Google’s lawyer. “Cracking the safe may be the only way to get the money that you want, but that doesn’t mean you can do it,” Roberts said, suggesting Google could have licensed what it wanted to use.

To create Android, which was released in 2007, Google wrote millions of lines of new computer code. But it also used 11,330 lines of code and an organization that’s part of Oracle’s Java platform.

Google says what it did is long-settled, common practice in the industry, a practice that has been good for technical progress. And it says there is no copyright protection for the

Google and Oracle clash in software copyright case before Supreme Court

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The Supreme Court building in Washington, DC.


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Google and Oracle faced off Wednesday before the US Supreme Court in a multibillion dollar battle that could have a major effect on how companies develop software in the future. 

The two tech giants are clashing over the architecture of Google’s Android operating system, the dominant mobile software on the planet. At the center of the fight is a question of copyright protections for application programming interfaces, or APIs, which govern how code communicates with other bits of code. 

Android was built in part by using APIs from Java, which was developed by Sun Microsystems. Oracle bought Sun in 2010 and later sued Google for allegedly illegal use of the software. The settlement could be worth almost $9 billion

For Google, the investment in Android paid off. The software powers almost nine of every 10 smartphones shipped globally. Beyond phones, Android is run on more than 2.5 billion devices altogether, including TVs and car dashboards. 

The legal saga, a decade in the making, has taken twists and turns to reach the highest court in the land. Google won the first major battle in 2016, only for an appeals court to reverse the decision two years later. Google repeatedly petitioned the Supreme Court to take the case, and last year the court said it would hear it. Oral arguments were originally expected in March but were pushed back and conducted virtually amid the coronavirus pandemic

On Wednesday, Google attorney Thomas Goldstein argued that Google only used parts of code it couldn’t re-create when it was building Android. He said they work “like a key fits into a lock.” He likened the code

Copyright, computer code debated in Google-Oracle court clash

US Supreme Court justices peppered lawyers for Google and Oracle with questions on computer code and copyright Wednesday in a court clash which could have major ramifications for the technology sector and digital innovation.

Oral arguments were heard in a decade-old legal battle between the two Silicon Valley giants stemming from Oracle’s claim that Google illegally copied parts of the Java programming language to develop its Android mobile operating system.

The case revolves around whether copyright protection should be extended to application software interfaces (APIs), or bit of code that allow programs and apps to work together, and if so, whether Google’s implementation was a “fair use” of copyrighted material.

In the court session held remotely, Google attorney Thomas Goldstein argued that the practice of reusing software interfaces “is critical to modern interoperable computer software” and allows developers “to write millions of creative applications that are used by more than a billion people.”

Goldstein maintained that these APIs were simply a set of instructions for software and were “minimally creative,” thus not eligible for copyright.

He claimed that Oracle’s effort would “make computer programming incredibly inefficient,” resulting in “fewer creative computer programs.”

Joshua Rosenkranz, the attorney arguing for Oracle, said the cases was simply about the theft of 11,000 lines of computer code, which should be under copyright protection as a “creative” work.

Rosenkranz said Google could have paid Oracle a licensing fee or developed its own code as rivals did.

“Microsoft and Apple both spent billion of dollars creating their competing platforms, and that’s exactly what the Copyright Act requires,” he told the eight justices.

– Like restaurant menus? –

Chief Justice John Roberts questioned whether the APIs should be considered like restaurant menus which simply organize offerings based on categories.

“You’re going to have… appetizers first and entrees

Google, Oracle meet in copyright clash at Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (AP) — Tech giants Google and Oracle are clashing at the Supreme Court in a copyright dispute that’s worth billions and important to the future of software development.

The case before the justices Wednesday has to do with Google’s creation of the Android operating system now used on the vast majority of smartphones worldwide. Google says that to create Android, which was released in 2007, it wrote millions of lines of new computer code. But it also used 11,330 lines of code and an organization that’s part of Oracle’s Java platform.

Google has defended its actions, saying what it did is long-settled, common practice in the industry, a practice that has been good for technical progress. But Oracle says Google “committed an egregious act of plagiarism” and sued, seeking more than $8 billion.

The case has been going on for a decade. Google won the first round when a trial court rejected Oracle’s copyright claim, but that ruling was overturned on appeal. A jury then sided with Google, calling its copying “fair use,” but an appeals court disagreed.

Because of the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, only eight justices are hearing the case, and they’re doing so by phone because of the coronavirus pandemic. The questions for the court are whether the 1976 Copyright Act protects what Google copied, and, even if it does, whether what Google did is still permitted.

Oracle, for its part, says the case is simple.

“This case is about theft,” Oracle’s chief Washington lobbyist, Ken Glueck, said in a telephone interview ahead of argument. He compared what Google did to plagiarizing from someone else’s speech. When you plagiarize one line from a speech, he said: “That’s a plagiarized speech. Nobody says, ‘Oh, well, it was just one line.’”

But Google’s Kent Walker, the

Seeking civility in groups as views clash on Facebook

As division roils the country ahead of the US presidential election, Justine Lee is out to “Make America Dinner Again” and foster understanding in the process.

The creator of the private Facebook group by that name faces the challenge of keeping conversation civil at a social network criticized as a cauldron of toxicity.

MADA was started when Lee, who lives in New York’s Bronx borough, and a friend were stunned by the outcome of the 2016 presidential election and began holding dinner parties to bring together people with opposing political viewpoints.

The dinners caught on. After the coronavirus pandemic struck and prevented face-to-face gatherings, MADA went virtual with a Facebook group.

The group has not shied away from hot-button discussion topics including race, police brutality and abortion.

While Facebook relies on automated systems and user reports to filter out unacceptable vitriol, groups have human moderators who can reject posts or turn off comments if discussions go off the rails.

Rather than Facebook or its chief Mark Zuckerberg deciding what is acceptable, groups outline their own standards.

“It is clear that these are the norms that we’ve agreed to as a group, and if you don’t agree with them or you can’t adhere to them, you’re out,” Lee said.

“I feel like the rest of the internet is just too big to be like that.”

MADA has around 850 members and a dozen moderators – six of them politically left-leaning and six right-leaning.

– The future is private –

Facebook — which with more than 2.7 billion monthly users is the leading social network — has been trying to shake off its image as a dangerously sprawling platform by emphasizing private communications and small groups.

“As the world gets bigger and more connected, we need that sense of intimacy more than