⚖️ Google vs. Oracle


April 8, 2021

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The Hustle

Data from Plate IQ shows that the price of ketchup packets have risen 13% since last January, due to pandemic shortages. Industrious individuals are selling 50 packets for $9.99 on eBay.

Guess selling ketchup is one way of getting out of the red… (sorry).

The big idea
Google Oracle fight

Google vs. Oracle, explained

Over the past decade, Google and Oracle have been waging a high stakes copyright battle.

Here’s the pickle: Google used 11.5k lines of code from Oracle’s Java platform to build its mobile operating system (Android).

Android now runs 2B+ phones and Oracle sought as much as $9B in damages, per The Wall Street Journal.

On Monday, the Supreme Court voted in favor of Google

Here’s what happened:

  • The Java technology in question was software that Oracle acquired from Sun Microsystems in 2010. Specifically, Google copied Java’s application programming interface (API) code, which are “prewritten packages of computer code” that allow programs and apps to talk to each other.
  • Google used Java but said that it was within its fair use rights to do so.

Wait, isn’t the lack of copyright protection a bad thing?

In the case of APIs, not so much.

A number of startup companies — and even Google’s frenemy Microsoft — supported the search giant’s case.

The reason is that APIs are:

  • reusable building blocks (think Stripe for payments or Twilio for SMS) that help startups and large corporations access crucial services without having to build from scratch or pay through the nose
  • interoperable between different apps, which is beneficial to consumers

The film and publishing industries wrote in support of Oracle…

… concerned that the ruling could mean overly lax fair use applications of their content.

Per the Journal, the Supreme Court kept its ruling quite narrow and was focused specifically on Google’s use of Java for Android, deciding it only took “what was needed” (Google copied 0.4% of Java’s ~2.9m lines of code).

Furthermore, the court did not decide on whether APIs should be copyrighted at all, “given the rapidly changing technological, economic, and business-related circumstances.”

Ultimately, this is the trade-off:

  • Broad copyright of APIs could stifle innovation
  • The counter is that new startups can have their work poached by bigger players without compensation

Solving for this equilibrium means we’ll likely see many more of these types of code/API lawsuits in the future.

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Snippets
  • Twitter almost spent $4B to buy Clubhouse, according to a Bloomberg News report. Meanwhile, Facebook’s internal R&D group is working on Hotline — a mashup of Clubhouse and Instagram Live.
  • UPS is taking flight with an agreement to purchase 10 small electric aircraft (eVTOLs) from Beta Technologies with the option to buy up to 150 more.
  • Creator economy boom: Content monetization platform Patreon is now valued at $4B, with more than 200k creators earning a combined $100m+ monthly from 7m+ patrons.
  • Acorns is looking to crack student debt with its acquisition of Pillar, a New York-based startup that managed over $500m of student loan debt within 6 months of its 2019 launch.
  • Kavak kicks into high gear: The Mexican used-car startup raised $485m at a $4B valuation, making it one of the 5 most valuable startups in Latin America.
  • Uber’s stimulus: The company will spend $250m on incentivizing drivers to drive again. In Austin, drivers will get $1.1k after 115 trips; in Phoenix, they’ll get ~$1.8k after 200 trips.
  • Snap acquired a screenshot app, Screenshop, that lets you upload photos of outfits and gives you shopping recommendations. Mark Zuckerberg, who wears the same thing every day, has zero use for this.
  • Singapore-based startup Trax raises $640m for its retail analytics solution. We legit did not know retail analytics was so lucrative.
  • This Hacker News thread… is a real doozy: “What tech job would let me get away with the least real work possible?”
NFTs Heat Up
NFT

People, this is an NFT (Source: The Generalist / Visualize Value / Mirror)

Publishers are riding the NFT wave… and it’s working

The NFT space is as hot as a Carolina Reaper dusted in chili powder.

Recently, publishers have been trying to get in on the action and a growing number are toying with NFTs in a variety of ways:

  • Time’s “Space Exploration” cover art NFT sold for $249k+ (the company is also building a 50-person team focused on NFTs and crypto)
  • Bleacher Report auctioned NFT basketballs for ~$810k in collabs with 2 Chainz, Quavo, Lil Baby, and Jack Harlow
  • The New York Times auctioned off a column about NFTs as an NFT and its now worth ~$700k

For writers, NFTs could be game-changing

Mario Gabriele, who runs the business analysis outlet The Generalist, recently led a project that — to his knowledge — culminated in the first tokenized, crowdfunded equity research report.

In English: The Generalist turned a written report about Coinbase’s IPO — accompanied by visualizations from digital artist Jack Butcher — into a set of NFTs that benefited everyone involved:

  • Writers and artists got paid through crowdfunded support
  • Supporters were rewarded through returns from a subsequent NFT sale of the work for 28.6 ETH ($59k+ at the time)
  • Collectors gained ownership over one-of-a-kind NFTs

In a conversation with The Hustle, Gabriele said he thinks NFTs “could offer newsletter writers an alternative to subscriptions and sponsorships.”

Writers? Money? We’re not complaining.

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Three-comma club
Bill Gates

This is currently the most popular Getty Image search result for “billionaire” (Source: MirrorPix / Getty Images)

The world’s youngest billionaires

Forbes dropped its 2021 billionaire list. There are currently 2,755 members of the three-comma club, including new entrant Kim Kardashian West.

The “youngest billionaires” is always an interesting portion of the list. Here’s a mix of inherited wealth and self-made fortunes:

  • Kevin David Lehmann (18 years old; worth $3.3B): The German teen inherited his father’s 50% stake in a leading drugstore chain (dm-drogerie markt).
  • Wang Zelong (24; $1.5B): This Chinese national inherited a stake in her family’s pigment chemicals business.
  • Alexandra & Katharina Andresen (24, 25; $1.4B each): The Andresen sisters inherited a stake in a Norwegian investment firm run by their father, Johan (who is still active).
  • Austin Russell (26; $2.4B): Russell dropped out of Stanford in 2012 to found a startup that develops self-driving car technology (lidar). When the company (Luminar Technologies) went public via SPAC in December, Russell joined the three-comma club.
  • Andy Fang and Stanley Tang (28, 28; $2B each): These 2 entrepreneurs co-founded delivery startup DoorDash in 2013 and became billionaires when the company went public in December.
  • Sam Bankman-Fried (29; $8.7B): This MIT grad built a near $10B fortune from crypto trading (via his firms Alameda Research and FTX). Bankman-Fried is a proponent of effective altruism, which means earning as much as he can to give away as much as he can (he was one of President Biden’s largest donors).

Meanwhile on Twitter:

Source: Twitter / @TrungTPhan

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Lawsuit of the day
house

A $200m $67m replica summer palace property (Source: SFGate)

Oracle’s founder Larry Ellison — currently the world’s 7th richest person with a net worth of $98B — is no stranger to lawsuits. He’s been dubbed “litigious Larry” and has been involved in a number of strange cases outside of Oracle.

Here’s a good one: In 2008, San Mateo County assessed Larry Ellison’s 23-acre replica of a 16th century Japanese palace at $200m+ based on reproduction costs.

The estate sits on a hill above Silicon Valley. It was purchased for $12m in 1995 and went through 9 years of renovation including:

  • An 8k-square-foot main house
  • 3 cottages
  • 100s of maple and cherry trees
  • A man-made waterfall carved into rock (placed on the property by “hand of God”)

The county wanted to levy property taxes on the $200m price tag. Ellison’s lawyer argued that since there was a finite market of buyers for the Japanese architecture, the property was really only worth $67m.

Ellison won out and got a $3m tax break.

This is a salient example of “things are worth what people are willing to pay for it.”

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