Krakatoa: East of Java; Google West of Fair Use

Some of you may remember the 1969 disaster film, "Krakatoa: East of Java" (which, coincidentally ties nicely to a recent Useless But Compelling Fact topic). Well today, Legal Bytes is happy to alert you to the results of jury deliberations – yet another copyright law disaster – just unfolding out West (West Coast of the United States, that is). Just hours ago (and providing more evidence that confusion reigns and continues to increase under existing copyright law), the jury has rendered its decision in the copyright phase of yet another intellectual property trial relevant to the online and mobile world. As you may recall, just last month we reported another copyright flip-flop winding its way through the courts in our post entitled, Appeals Court Vacates Summary Judgment in Viacom v. YouTube.

Today, a jury in California, deliberating in a case brought by Oracle against Google and alleging that Google infringed Oracle’s Java copyrights, concluded that Google did use the Java interfaces, but couldn’t reach any conclusion if that was protected use under the copyright "fair use" exception ("fair use" is a defense to copyright infringement). The jury did find separately that Google infringed some of the Java code and used it in developing the mobile phone platform, Android. However, before Oracle celebrates prematurely, Judge William Alsup noted that because only a minimal amount of code was actually used, Oracle’s request for $1 billion in damages or some share of Google’s profits was essentially ridiculous, and that only statutory damages, ostensibly a relatively nominal amount, would likely be applicable.

Indeed, these cases bolster a growing argument that as digital technology and innovation move forward, current copyright law is either inadequate or irrelevant, or both. Legal Bytes will continue to monitor developments in this evolving and convoluted intellectual property dilemma. I encourage you to take a look at an opinion piece I wrote separately entitled, A Contrarian’s View of Copyright: Much Ado About Nothing. But that’s just my opinion; the jury’s verdict is fact!

If you would like further information or need help making sense of the legal issues arising in our digital online and mobile world, feel free to contact me, Joe Rosenbaum, or the Reed Smith attorney with whom you regularly work.

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