In a landmark moment in the history of the U.S. software industry, the Supreme Court held a hearing today on a long-running legal dispute that pits tech giants Oracle and Google against one another.
The case centers around whether or not a key foundation of today’s increasingly software-driven economy—blocks of code known as “application programming interfaces”, or APIs—is subject to copyright protection. Oracle claims Google infringed copyright when it used elements of the Oracle-owned Java programming language to build its Android operating system, which now powers billions of smartphones and other devices. Google denies the claim, which involves about 11,500 lines of code out of millions of new lines that it wrote to create Android. The two companies have been battling one another in the courts for over a decade, with Oracle demanding $9 billion in compensation.