Is Copying Ever OK? Software Practices on Line in Copyright Case

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit will weigh whether copying bits of code from Oracle America Corp.’s Java programming language by Alphabet Inc.’s Google was a fair use under copyright law, or whether it infringed Oracle’s copyright to the tune of $9 billion.

Extract from article by Anandashankar Mazumdar

The software industry’s ability to easily create new products that are compatible with existing ones hangs on the outcome of a closely watched federal court case.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit will weigh whether copying bits of code from Oracle America Corp.’s Java programming language by Alphabet Inc.’s Google was a fair use under copyright law, or whether it infringed Oracle’s copyright to the tune of $9 billion. Fair use allows limited copying from protected works that would otherwise be infringing. Following a Dec. 7 oral argument, a ruling is likely in the first half of 2018.

The case pits software developers’ ability to make products that work together against creators’ rights to control how their software is used. The decision will impact companies beyond the two tech giants. It may affect the speed and variety of technological products available to consumers, businesses, and developers ( Oracle Am., Inc. v. Google, Inc., Fed. Cir., No. 17-1118, argument scheduled 12/7/17 ).

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