In Google/Oracle case, Supreme Court will weigh software’s future

Oracle and Google will have their day at the Supreme Court Wednesday, tangling via teleconference in oral arguments aimed at resolving a decade-long battle over whether common interfaces between software programs can be protected by copyright.

Why it matters: The case lies at the heart of how modern software development works, and each side says a ruling in the other’s favor will chill innovation. More narrowly, the Supreme Court may settle the question of whether Google owes Oracle nearly $9 billion in damages, as Oracle claims.

Between the lines: When Google developed the Android smartphone operating system more than a decade ago, it tapped Java code that is now owned by Oracle so that Java programs could run.

  • That code, known as an application programming interface or API, lets other programs “speak” to Java programs.

At issue in the case is whether copyright protection should extend to APIs. Oracle says

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Life on Venus: NASA, others weigh missions after phosphine discovery

The next obvious step is sending a robotic probe to take a closer look, something NASA and its Russian counterpart seem interested in doing. The U.S. space agency was already considering going forward with two different Venus missions, either or both of which could potentially be modified to look for phosphine or attempt a more direct detection of alien organisms.

Russia, meanwhile, has a long history of sending robotic spacecraft there, and this past week, the head of Roscosmos, that country’s space agency, called Venus a “Russian planet.”

But both agencies could also get scooped. The day after the news broke, a privately funded organization backed by Russian billionaire investor Yuri Milner, called Breakthrough Initiatives, announced that it had enlisted a team of top scientists to study ways to pull off a near-term Venus exploration mission.

“We just want to do something small and fast and focused,” said Sara Seager,

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