Trump Backs Oracle
Written by Sue Gee   
Friday, 21 February 2020

With the Supreme Court hearing of Google LLC v. Oracle America Inc set for March 24th, Oracle's supporters have now filed their legal briefs. The pro-Oracle submissions includes one from the United States Government filed on the same day as Oracle CEO Larry Ellison hosted a re-election campaign fundraiser.

We recently commented on Oracle's submission to the Supreme Court and were concerned that it made a strong case than could lead non-programmers to find in favor of Oracle and take a decision that would have disastrous consequences for the future of software development, see Oracle Files Response To Google and API Copyright - We Are All Doomed.

Could things get worse?usamicusbrief

Yes. The latest addition to the list of Amicus Briefs filed on behalf of Oracle is from the "United States" with a list of signatories headed by the Solicitor General making very clear where the Trump administration stands on this matter. This brief makes two arguments. The first is that Oracle (the respondent)  holds a valid copyright in the Java Standard Library, citing the copyright act and several precedents to make the case that computer code is copyrightable. The second is that the way Google (the petitioner) copied Java code was not fair use in that it:

harmed the market for respondent’s work and was not transformative

and that the petioner's fair use arguments lack merit.

After a flurry of Amicus Brief filings in the past few days, an Oracle corporate blog post claims that more than thirty businesses, organizations, and individuals have now made submissions on its behalf to the Supreme Court. In a preamble, Ken Glueck, Executive Vice President, refers to what he calls a " coercion campaign" waged by Google's head of Global Affairs and Chief Legal Officer, Kent Walker, claiming that Google persuaded companies and organizations that were likely to file on Oracle’s behalf not to do so. This is presumably an attempt to explain why few member of the "technology community" are in the list that follows.

There are bodies that certainly do have an interest in copyright - the Songwriters Guild, the Recording Industry Association of America, National Music Publishers Association, the American Association of Independent Music alongside  journalists, book publishers, photographers, authors, and representatives the motion picture industry, but only a small number of software-related concerns. Moreover it is clear that those listed by Oracle have very clear motives for their support. As longtime CEO of Sun Microsystems, it is hardly surprising that Scott McNealy, is taking Oracle's side and the partisanship of Joe Tucci CEO of EMC Corporation is explained in this quote:

"Accepting Google’s invitation to upend that system by eliminating copyright protection for creative and original computer software code would not make the system better—it would instead have sweeping and harmful effects throughout the software industry.”

There are two large software companies among Oracle's supporters, the SAS Institute, whose commercial S programming language was "forked" to become the open-source R and Synopsys whose brief sets out to:

challenge the notion, offered by Google and its amici, that the copying of someone else’s code is a mainstay of the computer programming world. It is simply not true that ‘everybody does it,’ and that software piracy allows for lawful innovative entrepreneurship, as Google suggests.

With regard to political supporters, Oracle's list includes several  including individual republican senators, the Committee for Justice and  American Conservative Union Foundation.


One pertinent fact that isn't mentioned is Oracle CEO Larry Ellison active support for President Trump that extended this week to a  re-election campaign fundraiser which was held at his home in Rancho Mirage, California. The event cost a minimum of $100,000 per couple to attend, with a higher ticket price of $250,000 for those who wanted to participate in a policy roundtable with the president

A petition demanding Ellison cancel the event of the grounds that it "endangers the well-being of minorities" attracted over 8,000 signatures, including over 2,500 from Oracle employees and led to a protest called No Ethics/No Work, in which 300 employees  walked out of their offices. While this might seem a small incident given that Oracle has some 136,000 employees it does mark a shift in it corporate culture with workers arguing that public support for Trump violated Oracle’s diversity, inclusion and ethics policies, and harmed the image of the world’s second-largest software maker.

Now that all the legal filings have been made, Google may have more support when it comes to the software industry, with Microsoft and IBM on its side as well as many well-respected academic authorities, but will Will Oracle's cozy relationship with the Trump administration influence the decision of the Supreme Court - and if so in which direction?  




More Information

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Last Updated ( Friday, 21 February 2020 )