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Google vs Oracle davasında
Google’ın Android’i oluşturmak için, Oracle’ın “Java uygulama programlama arayüzünden” (API) 12 bin satırlık kodu aynen kullanmasını adil kullanım kapsamında, hukuka uygun buldu.
OCTOBER TERM, 2020 1
NOTE: Where it is feasible, a syllabus (headnote) will be released, as is
being done in connection with this case, at the time the opinion is issued.
The syllabus constitutes no part of the opinion of the Court but has been
prepared by the Reporter of Decisions for the convenience of the reader.
See United States v. Detroit Timber & Lumber Co., 200 U. S. 321, 337.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
GOOGLE LLC v. ORACLE AMERICA, INC.
CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF APPEALS FOR
THE FEDERAL CIRCUIT
No. 18–956. Argued October 7, 2020—Decided April 5, 2021
Oracle America, Inc., owns a copyright in Java SE, a computer platform
that uses the popular Java computer programming language. In 2005,
Google acquired Android and sought to build a new software platform
for mobile devices. To allow the millions of programmers familiar with
the Java programming language to work with its new Android platform, Google copied roughly 11,500 lines of code from the Java SE program. The copied lines are part of a tool called an Application Programming Interface (API). An API allows programmers to call upon
prewritten computing tasks for use in their own programs. Over the
course of protracted litigation, the lower courts have considered (1)
whether Java SE’s owner could copyright the copied lines from the
API, and (2) if so, whether Google’s copying constituted a permissible
“fair use” of that material freeing Google from copyright liability. In
the proceedings below, the Federal Circuit held that the copied lines
are copyrightable. After a jury then found for Google on fair use, the
Federal Circuit reversed, concluding that Google’s copying was not a
fair use as a matter of law. Prior to remand for a trial on damages, the
Court agreed to review the Federal Circuit’s determinations as to both
copyrightability and fair use.
Held: Google’s copying of the Java SE API, which included only those
lines of code that were needed to allow programmers to put their accrued talents to work in a new and transformative program, was a fair
use of that material as a matter of law. Pp. 11–36.
(a) Copyright and patents, the Constitution says, serve to “promote
the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times
to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.” Art. I, §8, cl. 8. Copyright encourages the production of works that others might cheaply reproduce by granting the
2 GOOGLE LLC v. ORACLE AMERICA, INC.
author an exclusive right to produce the work for a period of time. Because such exclusivity may trigger negative consequences, Congress
and the courts have limited the scope of copyright protection to ensure
that a copyright holder’s monopoly does not harm the public interest.
This case implicates two of the limits in the current Copyright Act.
First, the Act provides that copyright protection cannot extend to “any
idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery . . . .” 17 U. S. C. §102(b). Second, the Act provides
that a copyright holder may not prevent another person from making
a “fair use” of a copyrighted work. §107. Google’s petition asks the
Court to apply both provisions to the copying at issue here. To decide
no more than is necessary to resolve this case, the Court assumes for
argument’s sake that the copied lines can be copyrighted, and focuses
on whether Google’s use of those lines was a “fair use.” Pp. 11–15.
(b) The doctrine of “fair use” is flexible and takes account of changes
in technology. Computer programs differ to some extent from many
other copyrightable works because computer programs always serve a
functional purpose. Because of these differences, fair use has an important role to play for computer programs by providing a contextbased check that keeps the copyright monopoly afforded to computer
programs within its lawful bounds. Pp. 15–18.
(c) The fair use question is a mixed question of fact and law. Reviewing courts should appropriately defer to the jury’s findings of underlying facts, but the ultimate question whether those facts amount
to a fair use is a legal question for judges to decide de novo. This approach does not violate the Seventh Amendment’s prohibition on
courts reexamining facts tried by a jury, because the ultimate question
here is one of law, not fact. The “right of trial by jury” does not include
the right to have a jury resolve a fair use defense. Pp. 18–21.
(d) To determine whether Google’s limited copying of the API here
constitutes fair use, the Court examines the four guiding factors set
forth in the Copyright Act’s fair use provision: the purpose and character of the use; the nature of the copyrighted work; the amount and
substantiality of the portion used in relation to the copyrighted work
as a whole; and the effect of the use upon the potential market for or
value of the copyrighted work. §107. The Court has recognized that
some factors may prove more important in some contexts than in others. Campbell v. Acuff-Rose Music, Inc., 510 U. S. 569, 577. Pp. 21–
(1) The nature of the work at issue favors fair use. The copied
lines of code are part of a “user interface” that provides a way for programmers to access prewritten computer code through the use of simple commands. As a result, this code is different from many other
types of code, such as the code that actually instructs the computer to
Cite as: 593 U. S. ____ (2021) 3
execute a task. As part of an interface, the copied lines are inherently
bound together with uncopyrightable ideas (the overall organization of
the API) and the creation of new creative expression (the code independently written by Google). Unlike many other computer programs,
the value of the copied lines is in significant part derived from the investment of users (here computer programmers) who have learned the
API’s system. Given these differences, application of fair use here is
unlikely to undermine the general copyright protection that Congress
provided for computer programs. Pp. 21–24.
(2) The inquiry into the “the purpose and character” of the use
turns in large measure on whether the copying at issue was “transformative,” i.e., whether it “adds something new, with a further purpose or different character.” Campbell, 510 U. S., at 579. Google’s
limited copying of the API is a transformative use. Google copied only
what was needed to allow programmers to work in a different computing environment without discarding a portion of a familiar programming language. Google’s purpose was to create a different task-related
system for a different computing environment (smartphones) and to
create a platform—the Android platform—that would help achieve and
popularize that objective. The record demonstrates numerous ways in
which reimplementing an interface can further the development of
computer programs. Google’s purpose was therefore consistent with
that creative progress that is the basic constitutional objective of copyright itself. Pp. 24–28.
(3) Google copied approximately 11,500 lines of declaring code
from the API, which amounts to virtually all the declaring code needed
to call up hundreds of different tasks. Those 11,500 lines, however,
are only 0.4 percent of the entire API at issue, which consists of 2.86
million total lines. In considering “the amount and substantiality of
the portion used” in this case, the 11,500 lines of code should be viewed
as one small part of the considerably greater whole. As part of an interface, the copied lines of code are inextricably bound to other lines of
code that are accessed by programmers. Google copied these lines not
because of their creativity or beauty but because they would allow programmers to bring their skills to a new smartphone computing environment. The “substantiality” factor will generally weigh in favor of
fair use where, as here, the amount of copying was tethered to a valid,
and transformative, purpose. Pp. 28–30.
(4) The fourth statutory factor focuses upon the “effect” of the copying in the “market for or value of the copyrighted work.” §107(4).
Here the record showed that Google’s new smartphone platform is not
a market substitute for Java SE. The record also showed that Java
SE’s copyright holder would benefit from the reimplementation of its
interface into a different market. Finally, enforcing the copyright on
4 GOOGLE LLC v. ORACLE AMERICA, INC.
these facts risks causing creativity-related harms to the public. When
taken together, these considerations demonstrate that the fourth factor—market effects—also weighs in favor of fair use. Pp. 30–35.
(e) The fact that computer programs are primarily functional makes
it difficult to apply traditional copyright concepts in that technological
world. Applying the principles of the Court’s precedents and Congress’
codification of the fair use doctrine to the distinct copyrighted work
here, the Court concludes that Google’s copying of the API to reimplement a user interface, taking only what was needed to allow users to
put their accrued talents to work in a new and transformative program, constituted a fair use of that material as a matter of law. In
reaching this result, the Court does not overturn or modify its earlier
cases involving fair use. Pp. 35–36.
886 F. 3d 1179, reversed and remanded.
BREYER, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which ROBERTS, C. J.,
and SOTOMAYOR, KAGAN, GORSUCH, and KAVANAUGH, JJ., joined.
THOMAS, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which ALITO, J., joined. BARRETT, J., took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.
Cite as: 593 U. S. ____ (2021) 1
Opinion of the Court
NOTICE: This opinion is subject to formal revision before publication in the
preliminary print of the United States Reports. Readers are requested to
notify the Reporter of Decisions, Supreme Court of the United States, Washington, D. C. 20543, of any typographical or other formal errors, in order that
corrections may be made before the preliminary print goes to press.
SUPREME COURT OF THE UNITED STATES
GOOGLE LLC, PETITIONER v.
ORACLE AMERICA, INC.
ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE UNITED STATES COURT OF
APPEALS FOR THE FEDERAL CIRCUIT
[April 5, 2021]
JUSTICE BREYER delivered the opinion of the Court.
Oracle America, Inc., is the current owner of a copyright
in Java SE, a computer program that uses the popular Java
computer programming language. Google, without permission, has copied a portion of that program, a portion that
enables a programmer to call up prewritten software that,
together with the computer’s hardware, will carry out a
large number of specific tasks. The lower courts have considered (1) whether Java SE’s owner could copyright the
portion that Google copied, and (2) if so, whether Google’s
copying nonetheless constituted a “fair use” of that material, thereby freeing Google from copyright liability. The
Federal Circuit held in Oracle’s favor (i.e., that the portion
is copyrightable and Google’s copying did not constitute a
“fair use”). In reviewing that decision, we assume, for argument’s sake, that the material was copyrightable. But
we hold that the copying here at issue nonetheless constituted a fair use. Hence, Google’s copying did not violate the
In 2005, Google acquired Android, Inc., a startup firm