The Google Vs. Oracle trial has mutated in recent days from a run of the mill patent trolling case to an incredibly huge circus with an insane amount of money at stake, as well as, in some ways, the fate of the concepts of fair use and open source. Following the case thus far, let alone being a part of it, would be enough to make anybody's head spin. Thus, some of you will be glad, and others may be biting their nails, to hear that Google is resting their argument with today's session and giving Oracle the stand. One particular piece of today's proceedings, however, stuck out as particularly poignant and meaningful in the context of our story so far.
To catch up, in brief; Oracle bought up Sun, the creator of Java, in 2009, sued Google in 2010, saw the suit thrown out in 2012, then came back via an appeals court to bring the case to where we are today. A good number of famous and knowledgeable faces have taken the stand. The guy who named the Dalvik VM said his peace and Andy Rubin almost infuriated Oracle lawyer Annette Hurst by keeping cool as a cucumber under extreme scrutiny. Oracle has been insinuating that Google tried to get licenses, then tried to cut Java out of Android, and eventually said "Meh, whatever" and simply used Java APIs that they legally should not have used. Google has been shooting back with examples of how the parts of Java they used were relatively small and, in the way they were used, fell under fair use according to applicable laws and licenses.
Yesterday's testimony included more testimony from Dan Bornstein, to address Oracle's questions on Friday about attempts to gain licenses and the alleged "scrubbing" of code from Android. Prerecorded depositions from current and former Oracle employees indicated that Oracle had no interest in the smartphone market, insinuating that, if Oracle was due any damages, it should be limited to what licensing fees would have been. The day's proceedings really heated up when Dr. Owen Astrachan, a computer scientist from Duke University, took the stand.
Astrachan began by showing the jury a sample function and how little of that code was the declaring code and interaction with the API, both of the factors that Oracle was suing over. He also pointed to Java's incredible popularity as the top programming language in the world, as well as the presence of OpenJDK, released in 2007 and since used in tons of projects, commercial and otherwise. Obviously, in order to work with other languages and many devices, OpenJDK contains many Java APIs. By these virtues, Astrachan made the point that Google's claim to fair use was valid. He didn't say it outright, but the implication was that Google, among the many who had made profits from Sun's work with Java that Oracle bought out, was being unfairly targeted.
Annette Hurst came out swinging for Oracle with a clever line of questioning meant, essentially, to show the flaws in Astrachan's testimony. She quoted a line from Astrachan's deposition that compared creating an API to being a musician, then went on to squeeze out of Astrachan that Android would not work without the APIs that Oracle is suing over. Naturally, Astrachan's response was to point out that Android would not work right if even one line of code was out of place, like any software, and that the bits of code being used were quite small and insignificant. It should be noted, of course, that Google has ditched Oracle's Java flavor in favor of OpenJDK from Android N onward. Hurst ended the cross-examination by giving the jury a look into the possible ambiguity of the moral code concerning software that Astrachan espoused. She pointed out that he asks his students if they've pirated software and advocates purchasing anything that needs to be paid for before use in the I.T. world. Although a win for Oracle may be a huge blow to open-source in one way, Hurst painted a contrasting picture by asking, if "…everyone was able to ignore restrictions on open source licenses by claiming it was fair use, would that erode and prejudice the whole open source system?" Not to be blown out right as he hopped off the stand, Astrachan said, "It's just using a very small amount of code. If I'm just using parts of the software or using it in different ways—the reason we're here is to understand whether a use might be fair." With that clarification, Google rested their case and allowed Oracle co-CEO Safra Catz to take her place on the stand.