Trump administration backs Oracle in Supreme Court battle against Google
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.
Just hours before the Trump administration filed a brief in favor of Oracle, Oracle co-founder and executive chairman Larry Ellison hosted a fundraiser for Trump at his golf course in California.
Oracle has successfully ingratiated itself with the White House in the Trump era, maintaining intimate access to the president and his associates even amid a broader “techlash” against top tech firms including Google and Facebook. Oracle CEO Safra Catz, for instance, was a member of Trump’s transition team in 2016.
The DOJ’s position falls largely in line with the Obama administration’s stance on Google v. Oracle, however; in 2015, Obama’s Justice Department urged the Supreme Court not to hear the controversial case.
Last November, the Supreme Court finally agreed to hear the case, taking up the heated Silicon Valley legal conflict that first began when Oracle sued Google in 2010. Google had appealed a lower court’s ruling that it unlawfully used Oracle’s code in its software.
“A remarkable range of consumers, developers, computer scientists, and businesses agree that open software interfaces promote innovation and that no single company should be able to monopolize creativity by blocking software tools from working together,” Google spokesperson Jose Castaneda said in a statement on Wednesday. “Openness and interoperability have helped developers create a variety of new products that consumers use to communicate, work, and play across different platforms.”