Oracle and Google Fight over Java Copyright

Oracle and Google Fight over Java Copyright

The Oracle and Google debate is back in the news now that their battle in court is finally here. A simple Google, or Yahoo!, or Bing—which ever you prefer—search will lead you to many different experts commenting on the story. In fact one commenter has been ousted as a consultant for Oracle. “Independent” Analyst and Case Commenter Florian Mueller has disclosed a consulting relationship with Oracle. Mueller claims that he won’t have any special access or gain any inside knowledge of the case, and that all of his continued analysis of the Oracle vs Google trail will be based on public information. While that is well intentioned, one must consider if it is wise for someone with a financial relationship with a party in a court case to analyze the case. Would Mueller shy away from being overly critical of Oracle if necessary to maintain his checks coming? Mueller claims that his relationship with Oracle will not impact his independent analysis of this case. However people like PJ from Groklaw and I, find this hard to believe, especially considering how most of his analysis shows Oracle gaining a huge win over Google. He may be correct, but it’s a hard pill to swallow knowing there is a chance for his financial well-being to be impacted negatively if he is critical of Oracle. His relationship with Oracle, even if it is on a completely different matter, removes his “independent” analyst standing. He is now “dependent” to Oracle.

Given the extensive body of analysis out there, we are not going to offer yet another analysis. However, we want to recap Oracle and Google’s court presentations in hopes that you can gain a better understanding of both side’s claims and come to a conclusion yourself.


Oracle presents a 91 slide presentation that discusses their view of the situation. Oracle’s presentation begins with the infamous “Lindholm email,” in which Tim Lindholm emails Andy Rubin, leader of Google’s Android team, stating that they can find no alternatives and the Google may “need to negotiate a license for Java.” Oracle goes on to describe what Java is, espousing its benefits, from wide adoption to millions of developers. Java’s history is given and it is mentioned that “Java was a major reason Oracle acquired Sun.” They then claim that Google was worried about the mobile phone market. When Google looked at its requirements for its newly acquired mobile operating system, it found that the benefits of Java match them almost exactly. So, Google built Android on Java. Oracle shows that Google knew it needed to obtain a license for Java. Oracle claims that Google wanted to maintain control over Android and was worried that Sun may claim control if they licensed Java from them. Oracle then returns to the Lindholm email showing that Google couldn’t come up with a better solution then Java and, again, that Google needed to obtain a license.

Oracle then describes the Java technology. Showing that it’s widespread adoption was a great asset in the Java virtual machines allowed the same Java program to run on many different devices. This virtual machine sped up development because a developer only needs to write an application once in Java, instead of many different times for different platforms. Oracle explains that Java APIs and Class Libraries speed up and ease software development. Oracle explains the different license types for Java offered by Sun.

Oracle shows that a license is necessary when someone provides class libraries based on Java API designs or downloads Java software components. Then Oracle makes the following bold statement.

Oracle then describes how Google’s need to quickly enter the mobile market led them to decide to use Java. Google knew that Java would attract developers, and it copied the Java APIs to attract developers. Then Oracle shows the back and forth of emails showing that Google knew that it needed licenses to use Java. Oracle claims that Google was unwilling to share control with Sun so, Oracle claims, Google released Android without the Java license. Oracle claims that Google tried to conceal its use of Java, and that Google profited immensely.

Oracle then shows how Google infringed on the Java copyright.

Oracle claims that the Android Source Code is based on Java API designs. “Google’s copying fragmented Android.” By doing so, Oracle claims that Android went against the benefit of Java, which has harmed Oracle and the Java community. Oracle claims that “Google Literally Copied Java Code.”

Finally given this is opening statements Oracle presents a slide laying out its stance on the case and what it will prove.


Google begins its 71 page presentation by listing their four main points.

Google claims that Sun gave Java to the world. Google claims that the Java language is open and free for anyone and cites a statement given my Oracle CEO Larry Ellison. Google claims that the names of API files, classes, methods and packages in the Java API packages are not protected. Java API class names are free for all to use, Google claims. Google cites an Oracle expert comparing them to part of speech.

Google claims that Android is built on free and open technologies. Google presents a background of Google and Android. Google talks about the Android Platform and shows how small a part the disputed APIs are. Google is nice enough to give a description of what an API does, perhaps for the less technologically inclined jury members. On slide 52 Google begins to should how the Android Source code implementation differ from Java.

Google then shows that there is 9 lines of similar code for rangeCheck(), which is 9 line of code of 92 lines in the file, and 15 million lines of code in Android. An amount so small, that Google says that it does not have to pay Oracle.

Google claims that Sun publically approved Android’s use of Java. It shows many excerps from speeches and emails from Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz. Also, Google shows a transcript of Oracle CEO Larry Ellison “giving Java to the world” and praising Google.

Finally, Google says that they made fair use of the Java APIs. Google shows what it thinks is the real reason for the lawsuit. Google talks about Sun and Oracles different mobile phone failures.


After sifting through these presentations, it is difficult to make a call as to which way the jury might go. Both sides will obviously interpret facts to their own benefit. If you are interested, I suggest that you read through the various presentations and make your our decision. However, whatever the outcome may be, there is the possibly that this case could be much bigger than how much money Google owes Oracle, or how Oracle was wrong and Google is allowed to use Java in the way it did. It is possible that this case could set a precedent for future copyright cases. If the judge rules that the names in APIs are copyright protected, it would have a huge impact in the technology sector. Yet, this could just be a case of two giant companies fighting over little issues. The result is that this case will be watched closely and could have a tremendous impact in the developer community.

If you want to view the whole presentation Oracle’s is here and Google’s is here.

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Jimmy McGee
Jimmy McGee

As the resident token curmudgeon Senior Moderator of the XDA Forums, get off his lawn. Member of XDA since the Windows Mobile days Jimmy McGee heads up the YouTube channel for XDA dubbed XDA TV. Technology Geek by trade and security analyst by training, he has a lot to say about things found on the internet, some of which can be safely ignored.