The ongoing conflict between Google and Oracle over Java code used in Android has been raging for quite some time, with both sides seeing wins and losses in court over the course of the long debate. The action seems to be approaching a climax, however, with Oracle recently calling for roughly $9.3 billion in damages, a figure that was adjusted to a still-painful $8.8 billion after an expert looked over the figures. Google has contested Oracle’s suit and the whole mess is slated to hit the courtroom in the near future, where it will be up to a team of jurors to figure out just how much Oracle may be owed, depending on a variety of factors. In such a situation, it only seems natural that the two tech giants would do some homework on the jurors to check for potential conflicts of interest. This will not be the case, however, at the urging of US District Judge William Alsup.
While such checking is far from unusual for cases like this, the Judge urged both sides to refrain for a few reasons. The jurors may find out they’ve been checked up on and end up ignoring the court’s orders to refrain from their own research. Jurors who are researched may also end up having arguments presented in a way that jives with their views, leading to a manipulation of bias. The final and most obvious reason that the judge pointed out was to protect jurors’ privacy.
The last time this issue came through court in 2012, the jury ended up unable to decide whether or not Google’s use of certain parts of Java could fall under “fair use” under the terms of the public license that most of Java was released under in 2008. Considering the massive profits that Android has pulled for Google, it’s no stretch to say that this issue is at the very core of the case and could well make or break the huge payday that Oracle is looking for. After Alsup, who presided that case, ruled that an API could not be copywritten, the ruling was eventually overruled in an appeal by Oracle, leading to the current state of affairs.