The appeal of Google to the United State Supreme Court to stop a software copyright lawsuit filed against it by Oracle has been denied, placing the outcome of the legal battle back with the federal court.

The Supreme Court rejected the appeal of Google against a decision by a lower court which favored Oracle.

The lawsuit by Oracle claims that the Android mobile operating system developed by Google, which is now the most popular in the world, is infringing on the Java software language of Oracle.

Google asked the Supreme Court to revisit a decision by the federal appeals court in 2014 that application programming interfaces, or APIs, in Java that were utilized by Google in developing Android were covered by copyright protection.

The 2014 ruling reversed a decision in 2012 by the federal district court in San Francisco that the APIs were not subject to copyright laws.

Google also asked the Supreme Court to limit software makers in their usage of copyright law to gain exclusive rights to programs. The company claimed that Oracle should not be able to claim ownership of basic software commands.

Due to the denial of the Supreme Court, the case will be moving back to a federal courtroom in San Francisco. This would be the latest development in the lawsuit that was filed back in 2010, as the case moves to lower courts to determine whether Google, in using copyrighted software, was in "fair use" of it. This would be similar to copying a short quote from copyrighted text, which would not require any form of payment.

"Some of us were hoping for a little more clarity on copyright, but that will come from other courts," said University of California, Berkeley law professor Pamela Samuelson.

If Google would lose the case in the lower courts, the cost to the company and to Android is still uncertain. In addition, such a decision would have repercussions in the tech industry, as APIs are widely used to allow software to work with each other and are critical components in smartphones, apps and cloud computing.

"You shouldn't let the owner of an A.P.I. end up owning the other person's program," argued Electronic Frontier Foundation special counsel Michael Barclay.

Google and its supporters believe that APIs should be considered as functional items and as such should not be covered by copyright. APIs, however, are different from the underlying code for software, which can be claimed for copyright.

Photo: Peter Kaminski | Flickr

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