Google’s Android Accused of Using Oracle Java Code


Intellectual Property activist and blogger Florian Mueller has recently posted a list of 37 proprietary Sun Java code files that have been found in Google’s Android codebase. Mueller feels that Oracle will present these files as evidence of copyright infringement. Oracle has brought a copyright infringement suit against Google after it acquired Sun last year.

Oracle will likely charge a licensing fee to Google if it wins the court case. Google’s Android operating system has become very popular with mobile phone manufacturers as it is open source and free of cost. As a result, a number of competing software platforms like Oracle’s Java ME and Microsoft’s Windows Phone 7 have consistently lost market share to Android. If the court rules in its favor, Oracle will have the twin advantage of generating indirect revenues through license fees and the continued survival of its beleaguered Java ME mobile platform.

Following Mueller’s blog post, many popular technology focused websites have come out in Google’s defense. A report released on Ars Technica claims that a majority of the disputed files are actually part of an audio software designed by third party developers and that the files were not distributed on the core Android OS software. A similar article posted on ZDNet claims that some of the files are simply test tools which aren’t meant to be included on Android powered devices.

Technicalities aside, there is a strong legal case against Google for copyright infringement. Even though the controversial code may not have been directly used on Android based devices, their very presence in Android’s code base and the fact that Google violated the General Public License by modifying the GPL code and publishing it under the Apache Open Source License makes the company legally liable to Oracle.

If Oracle prevails legally, Google will either have to pay them a license fee for distributing Android or a large lump-sum payment to settle the issue. In any case, Google is likely to spend a large amount of time auditing its entire code base simply to avoid future accusations of copyright infringement. This will adversely affect future development of the Android OS and create major problems for Google’s mobile services going forward.

Oracle’s lawsuit has also raised a lot of uncomfortable questions about WebM – the VP8 codec acquired and released by Google as free open source software compared to the H.264 codec backed by a group of hardware makers led by Apple and Nokia. The rushed release of WebM suggests that Google may have not audited its code completely and this may lead to copyright infringement issues in the future.

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