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Oracle's copyright victory not what it seems

by on11 May 2012

Pyrrhic without the elephants

It is starting to look like Oracle's initial victory over Google in the Java trial might be a pyrrhic victory.

Judge William Alsup said that Oracle's win in the copyright phase might not amount to much. The jury's verdict was that Google did infringe Oracle's copyright, but it was split on Google's fair use defence. Alsup suggested that Oracle wouldn't be able to get anything for that beyond the basic damages set by Congress for copyright infringement.  That would add up to about $150,000 per infringed work which would be tiny.

Google has asked for an entirely new trial on the allegations of copyright infringement, saying that the jury's findings must be thrown out because it couldn't agree about fair use. Oracle said that its copyright infringement win should be preserved, and if a new jury trial is needed, it should focus solely on the issue of fair use.

Oracle has suggested that it should be entitled to some of Android's profits because of the one point on which it had a clear win—Google's copying of a nine-line function called rangeCheck(). Alsup said that was rubbish and the motion Oracle filed on Tuesday making the same argument seems like a long shot.

Alsup has delayed a ruling on whether APIs can be copyrighted at all. If Google wins that, the whole case is pretty much over.

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