In two months, the Supreme Court will hear the oral argument in the long-running Google v. Oracle software copyright case. At issue is the availability of copyright protection for computer programs and in particular the copyright protection of code in Oracle’s Java platform, which Google admits it copied for its Android operating system without obtaining a license. Google also claims its commercial use of that code in competition with Oracle is protected under copyright law’s fair use doctrine, but that is a subject for another day. If adopted by the Supreme Court, Google’s arguments would undermine the Constitutional purposes and specific Congressional intent in enacting the Copyright Act, and along with them the fundamental incentives for new creative expression in software, a building block of so many consumer and industrial products. To better understand how, it helps to start at the beginning: Apple’s groundbreaking release of the iPhone.
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