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Landmark Copyright Case Will Have Little Impact in Hollywood, Despite Initial Fears

Photo by Pakata Goh via Unsplash

Landmark Copyright Case Will Have Little Impact in Hollywood, Despite Initial Fears

By Movieguide® Staff

Copyright law is a crucial component for Hollywood studios. Naturally, the entertainment’s leading trade groups held an invested interest in the recent Supreme Court battle between Google and Oracle.

Along with other pro-copyright organizations, the Motion Picture Association supported Oracle, which accused Google of using thousands of lines of their Java code for its Android operating systems.

Google adhered to a “fair use” defense against the computer software company. The MPA noted that if the ruling is applied to Hollywood, it could “potentially eviscerate” the studio’s ability to create spinoffs and sequels for their franchises.

“In other words, if Google could steal Java code, then perhaps anyone could make an ‘Avengers’ movie. Disney would then have no reason to invest billions developing the franchise,” Variety reported.

Although Google won in a 6-2 ruling, the Supreme Court maintained that they would not apply the case to anything outside of computer software.

The MPA said: “The Supreme Court made clear that it didn’t intend for today’s ruling to affect existing law as applied outside the context of computer software.”

The Copyright Alliance, who also raised concerns, echoed that the ruling will have little effect on the media.

“While we believe that the Supreme Court decision was wrongly decided, we are heartened that the Court made very clear that its decision is not only limited to software — and thus, should not be applicable to other types of copyrighted works,” CEO Keith Kupferschmid said. “As such, the decision here should have very limited applicability to other fair use cases that may arise in the future.”

While the court’s specificity is welcome for the entertainment industry, many on the side of Oracle were hoping that the Supreme Court would use the case as an opportunity to address other fair use laws.

“The time for clarity is now,” the Copyright Alliance wrote. “This Court should make clear that the defense of fair use should be applied judiciously.”

“I don’t think everybody should be running around freaking out that the sky is falling, because I don’t think it is,” J. Michael Keyes, an intellectual property attorney at Dorsey & Whitney LLP, said. “It was pretty circumspect and pretty narrowly drawn.”

“I could see that striking fear in the heart of some content owners,” Keyes added. “It does raise the question, in my mind at least, of at what point does the societal benefit outweigh the copyright holder’s interest in protecting that market. That’s where I think the battle lines are going to be drawn in future cases.”

For now, major content holders in entertainment, such as Disney, can breathe a sigh of relief.