Google’s role as a copyright defendant has provided fodder for many an essay in this series, particularly with regard to the Google Books litigation. (Incidentally, that litigation celebrates its tenth anniversary next month – and it’s still going strong.) A more recent Google case, however, is probably just as important, and it provides another interesting lesson in the Internet behemoth’s copyright litigation strategy.

The case is Oracle v. Google. In early 2010, Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems, the developer of Java, the popular cross-platform programming language. Soon thereafter, Oracle sued Google for copyright infringement, alleging that Google’s Android operating system copied certain small but important programs that Sun had written, called Application Programming Interfaces (APIs), which provide basic functionality for the many programs and platforms that use Java. The lawsuit soon became a copyright professor’s fantasy, raising issues both substantive (how low is the threshold for copyright protection for functional works?) and procedural (at what point in litigation does a defendant get to raise important policy issues?). Rather than discuss those issues, however, I’d like to focus on Google’s unique position as a copyright litigant here. [...]

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