Google’s $9 billion Oracle battle takes new turn

Oracle has asked a judge — again — to throw out the verdict that found Google rightfully helped itself to Oracle programming code to create the Android operating system.

Redwood City-based Oracle lost a lawsuit against Google on May 26 when a federal jury found the Mountain View tech titan had properly used the Java code under the “fair use” provision in U.S. copyright law.

The law allows use of copyrighted material in limited circumstances based on the scope of the use, to what extent the purpose is commercial, and the effect of the use on the material’s value or market potential. The Copyright Act provision can also permit use on the basis of whether it’s “transformative.” As a Stanford Library fact sheet puts it, “At issue is whether the material has been used to help create something new or merely copied verbatim into another work.”

The law also makes clear that commercial use may be allowable, according to a U.S. Copyright Office fact sheet: “This does not mean, however, that all nonprofit education and noncommercial uses are fair and all commercial uses are not fair.”

Oracle had been seeking up to $9 billion from Google. A judge already rejected a bid in May by Oracle to get the verdict thrown out. But the software and cloud company hasn’t given up.

On July 6, Oracle filed a motion in San Francisco U.S. District Court asking the same judge, William Alsup, to toss the verdict. The company cited case law suggesting use is not legal if the user “exclusively acquires conspicuous financial rewards from its use of the copyrighted material. Google, said Oracle, has earned more than $42 billion from Android.

“Google’s financial rewards are as ‘conspicuous’ as they come, and unprecedented in the case law,” Oracle’s filing said. 

Oracle wants the judge to adhere to the narrower and more traditional applications of fair use, “for example, when it is ‘criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching . . . scholarship, or research.'”

Judge Alsup had noted in rejecting Oracle’s first attempt at scuttling the verdict that the jury could have “reasonably found” that the commercial use also “served non-commercial purposes as well, i.e., as part of a free and open software platform, namely Android.”

Google has consistently argued that the Java code was free and open to all. “We didn’t pay for the free and open things,” Larry Page, CEO of Google’s parent company Alphabet, testified during the trial.


Photo: Google co-founder and CEO of parent company Alphabet Larry Page in 2007. (AP/Paul Sakuma)


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  • FOSSrules

    Oracle is still suffering from falling down the stairs and hitting its head on every step.

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