Supreme Court Refuses To Decide If APIs Are Copyrightable

Supreme Court Refuses To Decide If APIs Are Copyrightable

High court denies Google’s appeal in Oracle case.

The U.S. Supreme Court has denied an appeal from Google in its ongoing legal battle with Oracle over software copyright. The move means that the search giant, which argues that its reliance on Oracle’s software development tools falls under fair use, must go back and try to sway the lower courts.

The outcome of this 5-year-old tussle may have enormous repercussions across the tech industry. Oracle sees itself as a champion of sorts, fighting to protect intellectual property rights. Google, on the other hand, believes it is defending innovation. If the courts rule that application programming interfaces (APIs) are subject to copyright, the decision could severely restrict the ability of coders to build on or modify the work of others.

That’s no small matter. Advances in software often come from app makers adapting or furthering someone else’s code to solve problems or create something new. Whatever final rulings come from this case could shape the very nature of all future software developmentā€”and apparently, the Supreme Court wants nothing to do with making this decision.

With so much hanging in the balance, let’s take a look at how we got here.

Is It Taking Cues Or Stealing?

The court case tells a similar story to others found in everything from music to novels: Everyone can agree that there’s a fine line between being inspired by something and ripping it off. But the opinions vary on where it should lie.
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