Press Release Copyright Reform Media Consolidation

Public Knowledge Responds to Federal Circuit Ruling on Oracle v. Google

March 27, 2018 , ,

Today, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit issued a ruling in the ongoing Oracle v. Google litigation. The case involves the Java programming language’s application programming interface (“API”). First, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit overturned the district court and ruled that Oracle could assert a copyright over this API. Public Knowledge disagreed with this ruling.

At trial, a jury determined that Google’s use of Oracle’s API was fair use. Oracle asked the trial judge to overturn that jury decision, arguing that no reasonable jury could have come to that conclusion under the evidence presented. The trial judge denied Oracle’s motion. Oracle appealed to the Federal Circuit, which threw out the jury verdict and substituted its own analysis.

The following can be attributed to Meredith Rose, Policy Counsel at Public Knowledge:

“The Federal Circuit first erred in finding that application programming interfaces (“APIs”), which are functional means by which software programs communicate with each other, are subject to copyright protection. It has compounded this error by substituting its own judgment for that of a jury, which found that Google’s use of Java APIs was fair, and explicitly ignored Supreme Court precedent in doing so.

“Taken together, these decisions — which run counter to decades of software industry practice — could have devastating effects on the competitiveness, openness, and development of the technology industry. This could lead to higher prices, fewer choices, and worse products for consumers. If the Supreme Court does not reverse the Federal Circuit’s repeated errors, Congress must act to prevent the misuse of copyright to create a monopoly on progress, interoperability, and competition.”