Given the omnipresence of technology in our lives, tech giants like Google manage to touch almost every aspect of society to some degree. And you can't be as big as a Google or an Apple without running into a few issues. We've previously written about the copyright case that Oracle had filed against Google, in which a court had ruled in favor of Oracle in the company's assertion that APIs are copyrightable and that Google had violated their copyright in using parts of Java APIs of their Android platform. The ruling allowed for Google to mount a fair use defense for their usage of the APIs, and the matter headed back to district court for a ruling that was issued late last month.
A jury in a U.S. District Court ruled that Google's use of Oracle's Java APIs in the development of Android did in fact constitute fair use. In addition to allowing Google to continue using the software that it has in use for Android, they also manage to avoid the $9 billion in damages that Oracle was seeking.
Even bigger than how the ruling affect Google is the potential implication for other software developers. APIs enable the interoperability and integration that has become essential to smartphones. A ruling in favor of Oracle could have placed a target on the back of other companies that use snippets of Java API in their own works. Much of the work of programmers and developers relies upon free and openly available programming languages in order to create innovative software. If companies were to start keeping their APIs a closely guarded secret and taking action against companies that used them, we could potentially lose much of what makes our interconnected technology so convenient for us as users.
While the win is a big one for Google, it might not be the decisive victory that Google or fair use advocate4s were hoping for: Oracle has already indicated that they will appeal the decision. Nevertheless, for the time being, developers can rest a bit easier knowing that the APIs their works are built upon are in no immediate danger.