Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanagh joined the majority opinion. Justice Amy Connie Barrett did not participate in the case, which was argued before appearing in court.
In disagreement, Justice Samuel A. Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Alito Jr., stated that the first question was seriously wrong. The court said that the court was wrongly bypassing the original question, which we were asked to answer.
The majority’s view was unforgivable, Justice Thomas wrote, and its justification – that technology is changing rapidly – was strange, as was the change “a continuum where computers are concerned.”
Justice Breyer used what he said was a “far-fetched” analogy to describe what the contested code was. “Imagine that you could, through some keystrokes, instruct a robot to go into a special file cabinet, to open a certain drawer, and to extract a specific recipe,” he wrote. “With the proper recipe in hand, the robot then goes to your kitchen and gives it to a cook to prepare the dish.”
Justice Breyer wrote that the four fair use factors in the Copyright Act all support Google. The nature of the code, he wrote, “is bound together with a common system, the division of computing functions, that any claim is not a proper subject of copyright.”
Google used the code, it added, to create something new. “It seeks to expand the use and usability of Android-based smartphones,” Justice Breyer wrote. “Its new product provides programmers with a highly creative and innovative tool for the smartphone environment.”
Nor did Google mimic Oracle’s code too much. 11,000 lines of code in the issue, he wrote, 0.4 percent of the code’s relevant universe.