In siding with Google, the Supreme Court gave software experts some love.
I’ll explain why the technology industry was relieved by the decision, and the ways it might be relevant for artists, writers and archivists. I also want us to ponder this: Why are thorny legal questions seemingly inescapable in technology right now?
Oracle controls software programming technologies called Java that are a building block for many apps and digital services. Google used a relatively small chunk of Java computer code in its Android operating system, and that made it easier for software experts to make smartphone apps.
Two justices, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr., said it was a mistake to sidestep the question of whether APIs are protected by copyright laws. Justice Thomas wrote that he would have said yes.
Even though the justices left an open question, intellectual property lawyers told me that the decision should give comfort to companies that use APIs. The Supreme Court essentially blessed what Google did because it took APIs and transformed the software into something new that can benefit all of us.
Many technologists had sided with Google — even those who aren’t usually fans of the company. They worried that if companies could prevent rivals from using APIs or charge exorbitant prices to use them, it could discourage companies from inventing new products. For them, the Supreme Court decision brought relief.
Duan and other experts I spoke with said they were very excited that the justices backed a broad view of the legal right to fair use. That’s the concept that if you excerpt words or images belonging to others and add enough of your own creativity, you don’t need to get their permission or pay them.
Justice Breyer wrote that when considering whether fair use applies, courts shouldn’t look at only technical questions about the two parties involved in the case but think big about whether the copying brings a benefit to society.
Source: New York Times