A US District Court jury in San Francisco found today that Google’s use of open-source Java APIs was not a violation of Oracle’s copyright, a major milestone in a years-long battle between two tech giants that had broad ramifications for the future of software development.
The same court ruled in 2012 that those APIs, which Oracle owns, were not subject to copyright law. A federal appeals court reversed that ruling 2014, and kicked the case back to the district court. This time, the primary question was whether Google had made “fair use” of the Java APIs. In copyright law, fair use means that the way in which the copyrighted work was used had no substantial negative impact on the copyright holder.
The jury found today that Google’s usage of the APIs did constitute fair use, according to Bloomberg News.
A win for Oracle could have had a significant impact on the future of software development. Any company or individual who used open-source APIs the way Google used Java’s would have suddenly have become vulnerable to copyright lawsuits. And any software developer building a new product may have been deterred from using certain APIs at all.
Oracle has already announced it will appeal the verdict.
“We believe there are numerous grounds for appeal and we plan to bring this case back to the Federal Circuit on appeal,” Oracle’s general counsel Dorian Daley said in a statement.
For now, developers will likely continue using APIs as usual. Although the 2014 federal court ruling that APIs are subject to copyright still stands, today’s verdict suggests that reimplementing them will not be considered a violation.