Java: A Child of Two Parents — And There’s a $9 Billion Custody Fight

A lesson for any company … get your software licences sorted out

Prof Bill Buchanan OBE
10 min readAug 25, 2018

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Google is currently facing a fine of $9 billion in damages for breaching the Java copyright and has taken it to the Supreme Court [here]:

For Google the fight is not just about the damages, but on the future of software development [here]:

Introduction

Java is a like a child stuck in-between two dueling partners who want custody of it. It used to have one parent … the great and much missed Sun Microsystems, but now has two: Oracle, and Google. One of its new parents decided one day to clone the child, and make lots of them .. in fact billions of them. And that child was named Android.

In 2016, Oracle lost a fight for damages of $9 billion from Google in a breach of its APIs, but came back at Google in 2018 on IP breaches and won the case. Google now must feel that they should have created their own operating system for Android, and this avoided the issues with Oracle. When they started developing with Android, they were dealing with Sun Microsystems, and should have gained a licence from them. By Sun Microsystems were a very different company to Oracle, who acquired the company, and its olden egg (Java).

And so Java became the most successful programming language and now one of the most popular operating systems. But the other partner, who thought that they owned the child, has decided to sue and get the child back. Java is still top for job postings, but Python is chasing fast. C++ and C# seem fairly stable:

But Java has failed in certain areas, including its integration into browsers, but the integration into Android gave it a new place to…

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Prof Bill Buchanan OBE

Professor of Cryptography. Serial innovator. Believer in fairness, justice & freedom. Based in Edinburgh. Old World Breaker. New World Creator. Building trust.