March 31, 2023

Bits Blog: Google Cleared of Java Patent Violation

David Paul Morris/Bloomberg News

Google did not infringe on any Oracle patents when it used Java software in the Android operating system, a federal jury said on Wednesday.

The verdict, reached in Federal District Court in San Francisco, leaves Oracle with a relatively small claim of copyright infringement, making it almost certain that the judge will not demand a harsh penalty from Google.

That would be a mild end to what at one time seemed to be a major case between two of the largest companies in tech. Oracle, which picked up the Java software language when it bought Sun Microsystems, accused Google of violating both patent and copyright protections in developing Android, which is now the world’s most popular smartphone operating system. If Google had lost on several counts of the case, it could have been subject to severe fines or been forced to let Oracle in on future developments of Android.

“It’s a full win for us,” said Jim Prosser, a Google spokesman. “If you look at what has happened in this case so far, they didn’t have much.”

Deborah Hellinger, an Oracle spokeswoman, issued this statement:

“Oracle presented overwhelming evidence at trial that Google knew it would fragment and damage Java. We plan to continue to defend and uphold Java’s core write-once, run-anywhere principle and ensure it is protected for the nine million Java developers and the community that depend on Java compatibility.”

The case became notable for the star power of its witnesses, as both Oracle’s chief executive, Lawrence J. Ellison, and Google’s chief executive, Larry Page, took the stand. Evidence also included several embarrassing e-mails from Google executives discussing whether they needed to seek a software license for Java.

Earlier this month, the jury found that Google had violated Oracle’s copyright, but only on a few lines of code, out of millions of lines in Android. Other copyright claims were, like today’s patent claims, unconvincing to the jury.

Judge William Alsup of Federal District Court in San Francisco, who is presiding in the case, has revealed himself to be something of an amateur programmer. He has been somewhat dismissive of the sophistication needed to create the Android code that the jury earlier found had been stolen, another indication that he is unlikely to pass harsh judgment on Google.

While Oracle may appeal the verdict, there is still another wrinkle in the trial. The judge must still rule on whether or not application programming interfaces, or A.P.I.’s, can be copyrighted. A.P.I.’s are the specifications between different software components that enable them to communicate with each other. If he rules that they cannot be copyrighted, damages will be relatively modest. If he finds that they are, the case will be again presented to a jury.

Article source:

Public Domain Works Can Be Copyrighted Anew, Justices Rule

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld a federal law that restored copyright protection to works that had entered the public domain.

By a 6-to-2 vote, the justices rejected arguments based on the First Amendment and the Constitution’s copyright clause, saying that the public domain was not “a category of constitutional significance” and that copyright protections might be expanded even if they did not create incentives for new works to be created.

The case, Golan v. Holder, No. 10-545, considered a 1994 law enacted to carry out an international convention. The law applied mainly to works first published abroad from 1923 to 1989 that had earlier not been eligible for copyright protection under American law, including films by Alfred Hitchcock, books by C. S. Lewis and Virginia Woolf, symphonies by Prokofiev and Stravinsky and paintings by Picasso.

The precise number of affected works is unknown but “probably number in the millions,” Marybeth Peters, the United States register of copyrights, said in 1996.

The law was challenged by orchestra conductors, teachers and film archivists who said they had relied for years on the free availability of such works.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, writing for the majority, said the law had merely put “foreign works on an equal footing with their U.S. counterparts.”

“Assuming a foreign and domestic author died the same day, their works will enter the public domain simultaneously,” she wrote.

She gave examples. “Prokofiev’s ‘Peter and the Wolf’ could once be performed free of charge,” while now, she said: “The right to perform it must be obtained in the marketplace. This is the same marketplace, of course, that exists for the music of Prokofiev’s U.S. contemporaries: works of Copland and Bernstein, for example, that enjoy copyright protection, but nevertheless appear regularly in the programs of U.S. concertgoers.”

Indeed, she said, foreign works not eligible to be copyrighted in the United States before the 1994 law are somewhat worse off, as they receive “no compensatory time” for the period they had been in the public domain.

The Constitution authorizes Congress “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.”

In dissent, Justice Stephen G. Breyer, joined by Samuel A. Alito Jr., wrote that the clause meant to require a utilitarian approach, one under which authors were granted limited monopolies in order to encourage them to produce societally valuable works.

“Does the clause empower Congress to enact a statute that withdraws works from the public domain, brings about higher prices and costs, and in doing so seriously restricts dissemination, particularly to those who need it for scholarly, educational, or cultural purposes — all without providing any additional incentive for the production of new material?” Justice Breyer asked. The answer, he said, was no.

“The statute before us,” Justice Breyer wrote, “does not encourage anyone to produce a single new work.”

Justice Ginsburg countered with a broader interpretation of the provision. “The copyright clause,” she wrote, “does not demand that each copyright protection, examined discretely, operate to induce new works.” Rather, she wrote, the intellectual property laws generally, including the international copyright system, must address the general purpose of the clause, that of encouraging “the dissemination of existing and future works.”

Justice Ginsburg also rejected challenges to the law based on the First Amendment, saying that free speech interests are adequately protected by the fair use doctrine and the principle that only expression and not ideas are eligible for copyright protection.

Justice Breyer said the majority’s approach did not take adequate account of the importance of free expression. “By removing material from the public domain, the statute, in literal terms, ‘abridges’ a pre-existing freedom to speak,” he wrote, referring to a key word of the First Amendment.

Justice Breyer added that the decision upholding the law would have negative practical consequences, as owners of copyrights now charge for works that were once free. “If a school orchestra or other nonprofit organization cannot afford the new charges, so be it,” he wrote. “They will have to do without — aggravating the already serious problem of cultural education in the United States.”

Justice Elena Kagan did not participate in the case, presumably because she had worked on it as United States solicitor general.

In a second decision issued Wednesday, Mims v. Arrow Financial Services, No. 10-1195, the court unanimously ruled that a 1991 federal law, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, allowed consumers to sue in federal court over abuses involving automatic dialing equipment, recorded messages, unsolicited faxes and similar practices.

The law mentioned suits in state courts, and the question for the justices was whether that meant those were the only available courts. Justice Ginsburg, writing for the court, said the law did not bar suits in federal courts.

Article source:

Arts & Leisure: Richard Prince Lawsuit Focuses on Limits of Appropriation

In March a federal district court judge in Manhattan ruled that Mr. Prince — whose career was built on appropriating imagery created by others — broke the law by taking photographs from a book about Rastafarians and using them without permission to create the collages and a series of paintings based on them, which quickly sold for serious money even by today’s gilded art-world standards: almost $2.5 million for one of the works. (“Wow — yeah,” Mr. Prince said when a lawyer asked him under oath in the district court case if that figure was correct.)

The decision, by Judge Deborah A. Batts, set off alarm bells throughout Chelsea and in museums across America that show contemporary art. At the heart of the case, which Mr. Prince is now appealing, is the principle called fair use, a kind of door in the bulwark of copyright protections. It gives artists (or anyone for that matter) the ability to use someone else’s material for certain purposes, especially if the result transforms the thing used — or as Judge Pierre N. Leval described it in an influential 1990 law review article, if the new thing “adds value to the original” so that society as a whole is culturally enriched by it. In the most famous test of the principle, the Supreme Court in 1994 found a fair use by the group 2 Live Crew in its sampling of parts of Roy Orbison’s “Oh Pretty Woman” for the sake of one form of added value, parody.

In the Prince case the notoriously slippery standard for transformation was defined so narrowly that artists and museums warned it would leave the fair-use door barely open, threatening the robust tradition of appropriation that goes back at least to Picasso and underpins much of the art of the last half-century. Several museums, including the Museum of Modern Art and the Metropolitan, rallied to the cause, filing papers supporting Mr. Prince and calling the decision a blow to “the strong public interest in the free flow of creative expression.” Scholars and lawyers on the other side of the debate hailed it instead as a welcome corrective in an art world too long in thrall to the Pictures Generation — artists like Mr. Prince who used appropriation beginning in the 1970s to burrow beneath the surface of media culture.

But if the case has had any effect so far, it has been to drag into the public arena a fundamental truth hovering somewhere just outside the legal debate: that today’s flow of creative expression, riding a tide of billions of instantly accessible digital images and clips, is rapidly becoming so free and recycling so reflexive that it is hard to imagine it being slowed, much less stanched, whatever happens in court. It is a phenomenon that makes Mr. Prince’s artful thefts — those collages in the law firm’s office — look almost Victorian by comparison, and makes the copyright battle and its attendant fears feel as if they are playing out in another era as well, perhaps not Victorian but certainly pre-Internet.

In many ways the art world is a latecomer to the kinds of copyright tensions that have already played out in fields like music and movies, where extensive systems of policing, permission and licensing have evolved. But art lawyers say that legal challenges are now coming at a faster pace, perhaps in part because the art market has become a much bigger business and because of the extent of the borrowing ethos.

Dip almost anywhere into contemporary art over the last couple of years to see the extent. The group show “Free” at the New Museum in 2010 was built partly around the very idea of the borrowing culture, the way the Web is radically reordering the concept of appropriation, with works that “lift, borrow and reframe digital images — not in a rebellious act of stealing or a deconstructive act of critique — but as a way to participate thoughtfully and actively in a culture that is highly circulated, hybridized, internationalized,” as its curator, Lauren Cornell, wrote.

Christian Marclay’s wildly popular video “The Clock” from 2010 was 24 hours of appropriation, made from thousands of stitched-together fragments from films and television shows. Rob Pruitt’s show “Pattern and Degradation” at the Gavin Brown and Maccarone galleries in 2010 lifted designs from Lilly Pulitzer, from Web photo memes and from a couple of T-shirt designers, whose angry supporters staged a flash-mob demonstration to protest the use of the design without attribution.

Mr. Marclay and Mr. Pruitt were both born before the 1980s. But to look at the work of younger artists, especially of those who don’t remember a time before the Web, is to get a true sense of the velocity, and changing nature, of appropriation.

Article source: