On Friday it appeared as if the jury in Oracle’s case against Google regarding copyright infringement was possibly deadlocked, due to a potential disagreement surrounding the concept of de minimis copying of protected content. Basically, this would mean the jury has yet to come to a decision regarding Google’s minimal copying of the 37 Java APIs used when developing Android. Now, according to a series of tweets from Wired’s Caleb Garling, the jury found that Google did violate Oracle’s copyrights, but likewise were undecided on whether or not the search giant’s use of Java APIs should be considered fair use. At this, Google asked for a mistrial, but presiding Judge William Alsup decided to move forth to the patent infringement phase of the proceedings, without even a recess.
For a bit of backstory, Google’s trial against Oracle, who is suing over infringement regarding the use of Java in building the Android OS, finally commenced just weeks ago – 18 months after Oracle’s initial complaint. While the main point of contention is whether or not Google violated any copyrights, the trial was to be more about whether or not Oracle can to get a jury to agree that some portions of its Java APIs (application programming interfaces) can be classified as created works of art, and thus protected. The outcome of the trial could set a precedent regarding software developers’ use of open-source content.
When it came down to it, the jury had answered the following questions, courtesy of the aforementioned tweets:
A. Has Oracle proven that Google has infringed the overall structure, sequence and organization of copyrighted works? YES
As to the documentation for the 37 Java API packages in question taken as a group: A. Has Oracle proven that Google has infringed? NO
Google immediately moves for mistrial on question 1
Alsup doesn’t mess around. Read verdicts on copyrights. Whamo. On to patent phase. Not even a recess.
A spokesperson from Google states, “We appreciate the jury’s efforts, and know that fair use and infringement are two sides of the same coin. The core issue is whether the APIs here are copyrightable, and that’s for the court to decide. We expect to prevail on this issue and Oracle’s other claims.” Judge Alsup had previously stated that the court might “take what we can get and move on to the patent phase” – thing is, the question of fair use has yet to be addressed, and Google can’t exactly be fined until this is sorted out. Check back for more updates.
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