For almost 10 years, Google and Oracle have been fighting for a set of Android APIs, and for nearly so long the conventional wisdom has been that the technical industry has been on Google’s side. But while the case comes to the Supreme Court for the second time, Oracle focuses on that idea – calling on Google’s allies one by one.
After submitting a statement from the Supreme Court last week, Oracle VP Ken Glueck posted a statement during the weekend investigating the motives of Microsoft, IBM and the CCIA industry group, all of which publicly supported Google.
The Glueck message comes shortly after two groups – one interdisciplinary panel of academics and the American Conservative Union Foundation – provided legal instructions to support Oracle. Both groups argued that Google should be liable for copying code from the Java language for the Android operating system. The ACUF argued that the protection of Oracle’s code is “fundamental to a well-ordered system of private property rights and even the rule of law itself.”
Google has argued that copyright infringement would infringe software interoperability because it has copied elements of Java to support Java developers in building apps for Android. Earlier this year, it collected about two dozen briefs to support its position.
But Oracle claims that in reality “Google seems to be almost alone – at least in the technology community.” Glueck says that Google’s most prominent financiers had ulterior motives or “parochial agendas”; either they worked closely with Google or they had their own designs on Java. For example, Microsoft has arranged a Java-related lawsuit with some parallels with the case of Google. (That was, granted, almost 20 years ago.) Oracle claims that IBM wants easy access to Java after acquiring software company Red Hat. And Google is a prominent member of the CCIA.
Glueck also claims that these instructions do not support Google as heartily as they seem. In short, it quotes Microsoft, for example, because it only addresses one of Google’s two arguments as to why borrowing is legal. (However, that argument implies that Google’s actions are identified as reasonable use, which would still be sufficient to get it off the hook.)
It is not surprising that Microsoft and IBM submit briefs because a statement for Oracle could harm their business, rather than because it violates their principles. Oracle goes one step further and suggests that Microsoft is acting completely in bad faith and says it has only just begun defending Google because of a 2015 partnership. Glueck notes that Microsoft was “once one of the strongest antagonists of Google” as a point in favor of Oracle, although it is a somewhat ambiguous fact. Google has argued that support from a major rival proves that it has a point.
Even if you wholeheartedly accept Oracle’s arguments, there is a long list of other Google contributors from the technical community. Advocacy groups such as the Electronic Frontier Foundation and the Center for Democracy and Technology signed up for amicus briefs last month, as did several prominent tech pioneers, including Linux maker Linus Torvalds and co-founder of Apple Steve Wozniak. The CCIA contract has been signed by the Internet Association, a trade group that represents many of the largest companies in Silicon Valley. Patreon, Reddit, Etsy, the Mozilla Corporation and other medium-sized technical companies also supported brief “fundamental concerns” about Oracle’s claims.
Google disputed Oracle’s characterization of the depots. “A remarkable number of consumers, developers, computer scientists and companies agree that open software interfaces promote innovation and that no company should be able to monopolize creativity by preventing software tools from working together,” said Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda. “Openness and interoperability have helped developers create a variety of new products that consumers use to communicate, work and play on different platforms.”
Anyway, the two companies will meet next month when the Supreme Court hears oral arguments on March 24.