Oracle v Google - Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal
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Oracle v Google

Oracle v Google

In 2010, Oracle sued Google in California federal court for copyright infringement of their Java Code. 1 The issue was whether a company could claim a copyright on an Application Programming Interface (“API”).2  An API allows “programs to communicate with each other”.3  Judge Alsup determined an API is not copyrightable and Oracle appealed the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.4

 

This case is high profile because it involves two large companies and the decision could have a large impact on “how software is protected by intellectual property law”.5A decision that an API is subject to copyright could stifle innovation on the web.6

 

The federal court determined an API was subject to copyright “because Oracle had ‘multiple ways to express the underlying idea’”.7  The case was then remanded to the United States District Court for the Northern District of California.8  However, a new issue is surfacing in the case.

 

At first, Judge Alsup believed both parties were using tactics to delay jury selection.  Both parties requested the jury fill out a two-page questionnaire and then one party requested a full day to review the questionnaire and the other party requested two full days to review the questionnaires.  The judge believed this amount of time was disproportional to the time necessary to review a questionnaire.  After further consideration, he realized the parties intended to use collect personal information about the jury then delay so that they could scour jury members’ social media accounts for their religion, political preferences, friends, relationships, photographs, and other personal information.9

 

Judge Alsup wanted to protect jurors’ privacy.  He felt that they were already giving up their time to perform their civic duty so it was unfair to then violate their privacy.

 

The concerns with the parties using potential jurors’ names, addresses and additional personal information is that it is in an invasion of their privacy; it may prompt jurors to violate their restrictions and research the case; and the parties may use the information to make personal appeals to jurors during trial.10 Judge Alsup revealed he was considering a ban on any research of potential jurors’ and jurors’ social media accounts throughout the trial.11  If the parties had not decided to agree, he was going to require the parties to disclose the full extent of their Internet searches and how they would be done.12 For example, they will need to explain the extent they would “log onto their own social media accounts to conduct searches and the extent to which they will perform ongoing searches while the trial is underway”.13

 

Oracle believed the judges requested ban was an abuse of discretion.14 They did agree that there is a privacy concern, so they explained to the Court that they would not log into any accounts while searching social media accounts.15 On the other hand, Google was more responsive to the potential ban at the time.16

 

The judge banned the proposed use of a juror questionnaire, but he decided against a mandatory ban on all jury research.17 Instead, he proposed the parties consent to a voluntary Internet search ban.  Google and Oracle agreed on March 31st to voluntarily refrain from doing any searches of jurors’ social media accounts for the entirety of the trial.18

 

Despite Judge Alsurp’s protests, it is not uncommon in such a big case for the parties to use jurors’ social media accounts during a trial.  The American Bar Association does not contest this type of search as long as the parties do “not request access to an account that’s hidden behind a privacy wall”.19 However, it does supports judges creating their own guidelines.20

 

Before the age of social media, there were already many concerns about interfering with the jury and deliberations.  The rise of social media has only increased the potential issues.

 

 


  1. Vin Gurrieri, Google, Oracle Can’t Slow Process to Study Jurors’ Facebook, Law360 (Mar. 2, 2016, 6:20 PM), http://www.law360.com/articles/766139/google-oracle-can-t-slow-process-to-study-jurors-facebook?article_related_content=1[https://perma.cc/46R5-NNS3].

  2. Oracle v. Google, Electronic Frontier Foundation, https://www.eff.org/cases/oracle-v-google[https://perma.cc/6GLU-VEYS].

  3. Id.

  4. Id.

  5. Kurt Orzeck, Google OK with Potential Ban on Internet Search of Jurors, Law360 (Mar. 9, 2016 12:15 AM), http://www.law360.com/articles/769049/google-ok-with-potential-ban-on-internet-search-of-jurors?article_related_content=1[https://perma.cc/SVF9-G2LD].

  6. Oracle v. Google, Electronic Frontier Foundation, https://www.eff.org/cases/oracle-v-google[https://perma.cc/6GLU-VEYS].

  7. Kurt Orzeck, Google OK with Potential Ban on Internet Search of Jurors, Law360 (Mar. 9, 2016 12:15 AM), http://www.law360.com/articles/769049/google-ok-with-potential-ban-on-internet-search-of-jurors?article_related_content=1[https://perma.cc/SVF9-G2LD].

  8. May 9, 2016 may (or may not) be the Oracle v. Google Android-Java Copyright Retrial Date, Foss Patents (Oct. 7, 2015), http://www.fosspatents.com/2015/10/may-9-2016-may-or-may-not-be-oracle-v.html[https://perma.cc/59L4-BGHN].

  9. http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2016/03/28/google-and-oracle-must-disclose-mining-of-jurors-social-media/[https://perma.cc/3KQU-ZS44].

  10. Peter Kang, Google, Oracle to Stay out of Jurors’ Social Media in IP Trial, Law360 (Apr. 1, 2016, 10:07 PM), http://www.law360.com/articles/779711?utm_source=rss&utm_medium=rss&utm_campaign=articles_search[https://perma.cc/ZSJ4-W8HZ].

  11. Kurt Orzeck, Google OK with Potential Ban on Internet Search of Jurors, Law360 (Mar. 9, 2016 12:15 AM), http://www.law360.com/articles/769049/google-ok-with-potential-ban-on-internet-search-of-jurors?article_related_content=1[https://perma.cc/SVF9-G2LD][https://perma.cc/SVF9-G2LD].

  12. Jacob Gershman, Google and Oracle Must Disclose Mining of Jurors’ Social Media, The Wall Street Journal (Mar. 28, 2016 6:02 PM), http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2016/03/28/google-and-oracle-must-disclose-mining-of-jurors-social-media/[https://perma.cc/3KQU-ZS44].

  13. Id.

  14. Kurt Orzeck, Google OK with Potential Ban on Internet Search of Jurors, Law360 (Mar. 9, 2016 12:15 AM), http://www.law360.com/articles/769049/google-ok-with-potential-ban-on-internet-search-of-jurors?article_related_content=1[https://perma.cc/SVF9-G2LD].

  15. Jacob Gershman, Google and Oracle Must Disclose Mining of Jurors’ Social Media, The Wall Street Journal (Mar. 28, 2016 6:02 PM), http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2016/03/28/google-and-oracle-must-disclose-mining-of-jurors-social-media/[https://perma.cc/3KQU-ZS44].

  16. Kurt Orzeck, Google OK with Potential Ban on Internet Search of Jurors, Law360 (Mar. 9, 2016 12:15 AM), http://www.law360.com/articles/769049/google-ok-with-potential-ban-on-internet-search-of-jurors?article_related_content=1[https://perma.cc/SVF9-G2LD].

  17. Jacob Gershman, Google and Oracle Must Disclose Mining of Jurors’ Social Media, The Wall Street Journal (Mar. 28, 2016 6:02 PM), http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2016/03/28/google-and-oracle-must-disclose-mining-of-jurors-social-media/[https://perma.cc/3KQU-ZS44].

  18. Joe Mullin, Google and Oracle both Swear they won’t Google jurors in upcoming trial, arstechnica (Apr. 1, 2016 5:00 PM), http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2016/04/google-and-oracle-both-swear-they-wont-google-jurors-in-upcoming-trial/[https://perma.cc/M6CV-GFFT].

  19. Id.

  20. Jacob Gershman, Google and Oracle Must Disclose Mining of Jurors’ Social Media, The Wall Street Journal (Mar. 28, 2016 6:02 PM), http://blogs.wsj.com/law/2016/03/28/google-and-oracle-must-disclose-mining-of-jurors-social-media/[https://perma.cc/3KQU-ZS44].

Carly Kugler

Carly Kugler is a second year student at Fordham University School of Law and a staff member of the Fordham Intellectual Property, Media & Entertainment Law Journal.