The Trump administration is siding with software company Oracle over Google in the pivotal Supreme Court battle that has pitted the U.S. government against some of the top titans of the tech industry.
The Department of Justice (DOJ) in a filing on Wednesday urged the high court to rule in favor of Oracle in the case that Google once referred to as the “copyright case of the decade.” The DOJ is arguing that Google flouted copyright law when the tech giant copied 11,500 lines of Oracle’s code more than 10 years ago.
The Trump administration’s stance could have far-reaching consequences as the high court weighs the outer limits of copyright law in the digital age.
Google v. Oracle centers on a question that has eluded Silicon Valley for over a decade: whether it is possible to copyright application-programming interfaces (APIs), computer code that allows software products to communicate with one another.
Google, backed by a broad swath of the tech industry, has argued that software developers and innovators rely on open APIs in order to create products that work together and build on one another. But Oracle, in a case that has bounced through lower courts for more than a decade, has alleged that Google exploitatively stole its code while building Android, which is today the world’s most popular operating system.
The Trump administration, including U.S. Solicitor General Noel Francisco and Joseph Hunt, the assistant attorney general of the DOJ’s Civil Division, argued that “computer programs are copyrightable” and Oracle “holds a valid copyright” over the code in question.
“[Google’s] policy arguments are unpersuasive,” the filing reads. “Petitioner has not identified any industry understanding that software ‘interfaces’ are per se uncopyrightable, and concerns about the interaction of copyright and emerging technology do not justify such an atextual rule.”
Wednesday marked the deadline for companies, organizations and individuals to file briefs in support of Oracle in the copyright case. While Google attracted high-profile supporters like Microsoft and IBM last month, Oracle received support from powerful groups including the Recording Industry Association of America and former Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who retired last year as the longest-serving Republican senator in history.