Ars Technica: ‘Google’s Supreme Court Faceoff With Oracle Was a Disaster for Google’

Timothy B. Lee, writing for Ars Technica:

The Supreme Court’s eight justices on Wednesday seemed skeptical of Google’s argument that application programming interfaces (APIs) are not protected by copyright law. The high court was hearing oral arguments in Google’s decade-long legal battle with Oracle. Oracle argues that Google infringed its copyright in the Java programming language when it re-implemented Java APIs for use by Android app developers. […]

Arguably Goldstein’s most important task here — and throughout Wednesday’s argument — was to convince justices that there was an important difference between APIs and other code and that this difference had legal implications.

“He did an abysmal job,” Cornell University legal scholar James Grimmelmann told Ars in a Wednesday phone interview. “At the level of nuance he was willing to get into, his case was a loser. The only way to make it stick is to be nuanced about what it means to declare code.”

My gut feeling is that Google is in the right here — APIs should not be copyrightable — but that they utterly failed to make the argument in a clear way.

The Verge’s Sarah Jeong live-tweeted the arguments, and as usual, her notes are a wonderful way to get the condensed gist.

Thursday, 8 October 2020