Imagine you’re mugged. The thief takes all your cash and vamooses. The police catch the guy. And off to court you go, to ensure the larcenist receives what he’s judicially due.
And in court, in his defense, the thief says, “If you punish me for stealing money, people will stop making money for me to steal.”
Your jaw, and the jaws of everyone else in the room with an IQ above nine, would be on the floor.
This mandible-lowering inanity is precisely the argument Google is about to make before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Google is arguing that if it can’t steal Oracle’s Java computer code, people will stop making things like Oracle’s Java for Google to steal.
Here’s a brief summary of the case in question, Google v. Oracle America:
“[A] current legal case within the United States related to the nature of computer code and copyright law. The dispute centers on the use of parts of the Java programming language’s application programming interfaces (APIs), which are owned by Oracle, within early versions of the Android operating system by Google. Google has admitted to using the APIs….”
Stop right there. Google admits it used Oracle’s Java. In fact, Google used 11,500 lines of Oracle’s Java code.
Google and Oracle were negotiating terms for licenses for the use of Oracle’s 11,500 lines of Java code, until one day Google just stopped negotiating. Google then released its Android OS with Oracle’s 11,500 lines of Java, but without any license to use it.
Oracle’s decade-long lawsuit ensued, and it has now arrived before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Let us briefly examine what happened here. Computer company Sun Microsystems spent a huge amount of time, effort, and money creating and developing Java. Oracle then spent a lot of money purchasing Sun Microsystems, and with it, Sun’s Java. Oracle has since spent much time, effort, and money maintaining and updating it.
Oracle has to pay back the money it spent acquiring Sun and maintaining Java, and one way to do that is by licensing Java.
If the Supreme Court legalizes Google’s mass heist, why would anyone like Oracle and Sun spend so much time, effort, and money developing and maintaining systems like Java if other companies such as Google can then simply take them without providing any compensation?
No one would do that. People will stop bothering to make new things if all their creations are destined to be stolen.
Google is asking the Supreme Court to overturn a perfectly sane and rational lower court decision in Oracle’s favor: Oracle Ruling Harms Innovation, Google Tells SCOTUS. To do so would be to deny common sense.
Other would-be burglars in the tech, legal, and media sectors are rushing to Google’s defense:
“Tech industry and legal luminaries filed amicus briefs urging the high court to take this case.
“A filing on behalf of Google by ’78 computer scientists, engineers, and professors who are pioneering and influential figures in the computer industry’ argued that the matter is ‘exceptionally important’ for its wide-ranging potential consequences.
“They said the lower court’s ruling misunderstands the issue and will chill innovation altogether, ultimately harming consumers as well as ‘the Progress of Science and useful Arts.’”
Thief-to-English translation: “If you don’t let Google steal, people will stop making things for all of us to steal.”
That argument is patently absurd. If you want anyone to make anything worth anything, you must protect those things from theft once they’re made.
Google and its allies are pretending the exact opposite is true, that people will only continue to make things if Google and others are then allowed to steal them. That is simply nonsensical.
Google and its allies are asking the Supreme Court to ratify and codify a blatant denial of property rights. Such a ruling would be a disaster not just for the computer world but for the economy as a whole and everybody who benefits from the technological innovations of hardworking entrepreneurs who risk their time, effort, and money to bring us new products and services.