Google wins JAVA API dispute with Oracle: ‘Fair Use’ argument critical for development despite 11,500 lines code copied ‘verbatim’

Google Java API Android Fair Use
Pic credit: Pasi Mämmelä/Pixabay

Google has secured a win over Oracle in the long-running case about JAVA. The United States Supreme Court has essentially granted the search giant a permanent reprieve for adopting JAVA API into its Android smartphone operating system.

The US Supreme Court has accepted Google’s argument over its use of JAVA API (Application Programming Interface). The court accepted that Google’s use of JAVA API fell under ‘Fair Use’.

Oracle does not exclusively own JAVA API, implies US Supreme Court:

For 11 long years, Oracle had strongly maintained that it owned exclusive ownership of the insanely popular JAVA API. Several courts had heard the case and offered contradicting observations supporting or opposing either Google or Oracle.

More than a decade ago, Google adopted JAVA API to develop its Android smartphone operating system. Needless to mention, Oracle and Google did not manage to reach an agreement over code sharing.

Oracle then filed a case against Google over the latter’s use of JAVA API. Over the years, the dispute has been through a range of courts with various judges ruling for and against Google.

Incidentally, the United States Supreme Court has officially acknowledged that Google copied 11,500 lines of code from a Java API (Application Programming Interface). On the 44th page of the document, Justice Clarence Thomas has offered his rather scathing views.

He writes that Google initially sought to license the code for use in Android. However, after the two couldn’t agree on terms, Google simply copied the 11,500 lines of code “verbatim”.

Justice Thomas has observed that by copying the code Google essentially wiped out 97.5 percent of the value of Oracle’s partnership with Amazon. Moreover, by ingesting the readily available and reliably working code, Google quickly developed and scaled its Android smartphone OS.

With the JAVA API, Google established itself as the owner of the biggest mobile operating system in the world, observed the judge. Despite Google’s activities, the US Supreme Court’s other judges observed that this was allowed under ‘Fair Use’.

Apparently, Google did what it did so that programmers could “put their accrued talents to work in a new and transformative program”. And this was ‘Fair Use’ of that copied material.

Despite winning, Google won’t be using the JAVA API for long:

With the Supreme Court of the United States siding with Google, the search giant has finally laid to rest a long-running dispute. Moreover, the court’s ruling may have set strong precedence about the “greater good”.

Despite winning, however, Google has long been moving away from JAVA. The company has been actively pushing Kotlin. It is a versatile and resilient general-purpose programming language.

Moreover, Google specifically designed Kotlin to interoperate fully with JAVA. Incidentally, the JVM version of Kotlin’s standard library depends on the Java Class Library, but type inference (a specialty of Kotlin) allows its syntax to be more concise.

Simply put, Kotlin improves upon the pain points of JAVA and adds more features, reliability, and performance. If that’s not enough, Google has long been hinting about Fuchsia OS. Fuchsia OS could eventually replace the Android operating system.

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