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Breakingviews - Capital Calls - Google’s legal win against Oracle

The logo of Google is seen in Davos, Switzerland Januar 20, 2020. REUTERS/Arnd Wiegmann

WASHINGTON (Reuters Breakingviews) - ALL’S FAIR. For once, a legal victory for Alphabet’s Google unit also helps the little guy. The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday sided with the search giant in a decade-long copyright fight over Oracle’s Java software code, parts of which were used to build the Android operating system. The justices found that Google’s move was “fair use” because it used only parts of the language to create a “new and transformative program.”

The ruling helps foster innovation. It’s common in Silicon Valley to freely use part of other company’s software code to develop apps and other products, which explains why dozens of computer scientists objected to Oracle’s stance. The company founded by Larry Ellison was seeking almost $9 billion in damages.

The technical case was also good practice for a court itself getting to grips with high tech. Justice Stephen Breyer, 82, who wrote the opinion, noted that companies’ Application Programming Interfaces, or APIs, organize computer tasks much like the Dewey decimal system arranges library books. That kind of homework will come in handy for lawmakers and judges alike when future challenges land in their inboxes. (By Gina Chon)

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