by Bob Barr, The Daily Caller:
Most Americans – probably the vast majority – have very little idea what the United States Supreme Court really does. Sure, whenever the High Court issues a ruling on an abortion case or decides a matter involving the Second Amendment, the media is all over it and the public becomes aware that the Court is there. Abortion and guns aside, however, rulings by our nation’s highest court often impact our daily lives in far more ways than do those high-profile decisions everyone hears about.
In just a few weeks, the Court will hear arguments in a truly landmark case that will significantly impact Google, the world’s most heavily used search engine, controlling over 92% of that market worldwide.
Google actually is owned by Alphabet, but everyone outside the tech industry itself knows the search engine as “Google” not “Alphabet” or anything else. The search engine enjoys such a ubiquitous presence that its name has been recognized officially in dictionaries as a transitive verb.
The specific case on which the nine Justices will hear arguments has little to do with the average person who “Googles,” but a great deal to do with copyright law. Although hardly a matter for dinner table chatter in suburbia, copyright law indirectly affects much of what every person reads, listens to or views on their computer; but perhaps most importantly, how they conduct research on a computer or smartphone.
The specifics of the case to be heard by the Court – Google v. Oracle – relate to something called “application programming interfaces” or “API” for short. API play a major role in software development, which in a sense is the fuel that powers computer search engines such as Google. Oracle Corp. is the largest software company in the database business, which runs on most major platforms like Windows and Mac OS. The legal battle between these two tech giants, which has been ongoing for over a decade, is being fought over Oracle’s claim that Google copied its popular “JAVA” software when Google developed its Android mobile phone.
Initially, Google intended to pay for a license for the JAVA APIs. Later, however, when negotiations failed to produce the result Google sought, the tech giant decided instead to copy the software without Oracle’s permission. Since then, the case has been bouncing between different levels of our federal courts like a high-tech ping pong ball. But what is at stake is no game.
A federal court found that 11,500 lines of creative declaring code in Android’s software replicated the structure, sequence and organizing of the Java API components. While most readers probably do not know exactly what “creative declaring code” means, they understand intuitively that 11,500 of something resembling another thing looks an awful lot like copying.