September 21, 2023

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Judges Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh supported the majority opinion. Judge Amy Coney Barrett did not participate in the case, which was discussed prior to joining the court.

In contradiction, Justice Clarence Thomas, along with Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., said that skipping the first question was a grave analytical misstep. “The court is wrongly bypassing the main question we were supposed to be answering,” he wrote, adding that it had ruled that the Code is copyrighted.

The majority approach was inexplicable, wrote Justice Thomas, and his rationale – that technology changes rapidly – was strange, as change “has been a constant when it comes to computers.”

Judge Breyer used what he called “far-fetched” analogy to describe what the controversial code did. “Imagine you can use certain keystrokes to instruct a robot to go to a specific filing cabinet, open a specific drawer, and select a specific recipe,” he wrote. “With the right recipe in hand, the robot then moves into your kitchen and gives it to a chef to prepare the dish.”

Judge Breyer wrote that the four fair use factors set out in copyright law all supported Google. The nature of the code, he wrote, “is inextricably linked to a general system, the division of computing tasks that no one claims to be a proper subject of copyright law.”

Google’s use of the code created something new. “The aim is to expand the usability and usefulness of Android-based smartphones,” wrote Justice Breyer. “The new product offers programmers an extremely creative and innovative tool for a smartphone environment.”

Google hasn’t copied too much of Oracle’s code either. The 11,000 lines of code in question, he wrote, made up 0.4 percent of the relevant code universe.