Supreme Court Sides with Google in Major Copyright CaseApril 7, 2021

On Monday, the Supreme Court handed Google a win in a long-standing copyright dispute over the software used in the Android mobile operating system.

The case dates back to 2005, when Google included roughly 11,500 lines of code from an Application Programming Interface (API), a tool that allows software applications to more easily communicate by drawing on previously written instructions in its mobile Android operating system. The Java API had been developed by Sun Microsystems, which Oracle purchased in 2010.

Google argued that its use of the code was covered by the fair use doctrine, which allows copyrighted material to be used by other parties without permission in limited situations, such as when the use is transformative or educational in nature. A federal circuit court ruled in Oracle’s favor in 2018, which held that the code in question was copyrightable and that Google’s use was not protected by fair use.

The Supreme Court overturned that decision on Monday in a 6-2 decision, with Justice Stephen Breyer writing the majority opinion and explaining that Google used “only what was needed to allow users to put their accrued talents to work in a new and transformative program.”

The full opinion is available here.

Brandon W. Clark is the Chair of the Copyright, Entertainment & Media Law Practice Group at McKee, Voorhees & Sease, PLC. For additional information, please visit or contact Brandon directly via email at

← Return to Filewrapper

Stay in Touch

Receive the latest news and updates from us and our attorneys.

Sign Up