Supreme Court Backs Google in Copyright Fight With Oracle

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh joined the bulk opinion. Justice Amy Coney Barrett didn’t take part in the case, which was argued earlier than she joined the court docket.

In dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., mentioned leapfrogging the primary query was a grave analytical misstep. “The court wrongly sidesteps the principal question that we were asked to answer,” he wrote, including that he would have dominated that the code was protected by copyright legal guidelines.

The majority’s method was inexplicable, Justice Thomas wrote, and its rationale — that know-how is quickly altering — was odd, as change “has been a constant where computers are concerned.”

Justice Breyer used what he referred to as a “far-fetched” analogy to explain what the contested code did. “Imagine that you can, via certain keystrokes, instruct a robot to move to a particular file cabinet, to open a certain drawer, and to pick out a specific recipe,” he wrote. “With the proper recipe in hand, the robot then moves to your kitchen and gives it to a cook to prepare the dish.”

Justice Breyer wrote that the 4 fair-use components set out in the Copyright Act all supported Google. The nature of the code, he wrote, “is inextricably bound together with a general system, the division of computing tasks, that no one claims is a proper subject of copyright.”

Google’s use of the code, he added, created one thing new. “It seeks to expand the use and usefulness of Android-based smartphones,” Justice Breyer wrote. “Its new product offers programmers a highly creative and innovative tool for a smartphone environment.”

Nor did Google copy an excessive amount of of Oracle’s code. The 11,000 traces of code at subject, he wrote, amounted to 0.four % of the related universe of code.

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