Judge Ridicules Oracle's Risky Choice To Forego Statutory Damages And Seek Bigger Payout

from the wow dept

We've written tons of stuff on the ridiculousness of statutory damages for copyright infringement -- which can put damages for a single infringement at up to $150,000 (for willful infringement). When you're talking about a $0.99 song, that seems completely out of line. The reason for statutory damages (supposedly) is that figuring out actual damages is simply too difficult, so a statutory range lets you ignore any discussion of having to prove real damages. In most copyright lawsuits, plaintiffs automatically take the statutory damages rates. It's pretty rare for anyone to opt-out. However, opting out is exactly what Oracle has done in its ongoing lawsuit against Google. And it did this despite the judge ridiculing the company for the decision. From Rachel King at ZDNet:
When Alsup heard Jacobs say this, he warned that if Oracle goes down this path, they might not win anything at all, adding that it is the “height of ridiculousness” to think that Oracle could claim “hundreds of millions” of dollars for nine lines of code.

“The law can’t operate that way,” Alsup said. “In my mind, you’re making a mistake.”

In a later discussion on Friday morning, David Boies, also representing Oracle, tried to defend this strategy, arguing that the burden of proof is on Google here — not Oracle.

“What we are saying is once you proved infringement, we think under the law we have claim for infringer’s profit case,” Boies asserted.
The only thing I can figure here is that Oracle is doing this just to be a pest. Even if it does eventually win on the copyright issue (still an open question given the judge needing to rule on the copyrightability of APIs), it's not going to get that much money either way. The $150,000 statutory damages numbers are pocket change for either company, but as the judge made clear, in all likelihood it would get less (or nothing) if it tries to get "infringer's profits," because the contribution of the code in question is so minimal. However, it is possible that the fight over what those "profits" might be will simply prolong the case... and the expense of the case. So perhaps this is just a strategy by Oracle to drag things out? Maybe its lawyers are hoping that will make Google want to settle? Other than that, I'm with the judge in being a bit perplexed by the reasoning here.
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Filed Under: api, statutory damages
Companies: google, oracle

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  1. icon
    TtfnJohn (profile), 12 May 2012 @ 10:11pm


    You have to consider it a victory when you lose the ruling, as in the SCO case and your side has to pay costs on top of that. A spectacular victory that drove SCO into monetary bankruptcy to match their moral and technical bankruptcy. Even if the corpse hasn't stopped twitching.

    As for actual damages, if Oracle can establish any, one of our AC's has pointed out the breadth of Google's business as one reason this may be almost impossible to do so I'll add another one which is the nearly equal breadth of Oracle's business. It's hard to imagine what if any profit some part of Google's business made from that and what part of Oracle's operations would have been impacted and to what degree.

    Seems like the ideal place to "take the money and run" the shut up about it all. Perhaps Boies got infected with "SCOX Self Importance Complex Disease" from hanging around with Darryl McBride for so long.

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