Daily Current Affairs 18.04.2021 (Great Indian Bustard Poaching, Cuba New Head, 220 million year old Rat like creature, Oracle VS Google)

Daily Current Affairs 18.04.2021 (Great Indian Bustard Poaching, Cuba New Head, 220 million year old Rat like creature, Oracle VS Google)


1. Bustard poaching in Pakistan shocks activists

Great Indian Bustard, the State bird of Rajasthan, is considered India’s most critically endangered bird

The recent shooting of two Great Indian Bustards (GIBs) in Pakistan’s Cholistan desert, with the poachers brazenly getting themselves photographed with the carcasses of birds in their hands and guns on their shoulders, has left wildlife activists in Rajasthan shocked and outraged. The GIB, which is the State bird of Rajasthan, is considered India’s most critically endangered bird.

A group of hunters, allegedly led by a retired Major of the Pakistan Army, shot down two GIBs in a protected area of southern Punjab’s Cholistan game reserve in Pakistan earlier this month. Retired Major Tanveer Hussain Shah, a resident of Rahim Yar Khan district, and his accomplices, also attacked wildlife officials of that country when they tried to stop the group from hunting GIBs and chinkara deer.

The grassland habitat with grass cover in the Cholistan desert, where the GIBs were foraging, is similar to the habitat in Rajasthan’s Desert National Park (DNP), where the GIB’s last remnant wild population is found. The DNP, situated near the towns of Jaisalmer and Barmer, forms a part of the mighty Thar desert.

The GIB’s population of fewer than 100 in Rajasthan accounts for 95% of its total world population. The International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), a global authority on species survival, which categorised the GIBs as “endangered” in 1994, was forced to upgrade the species to the status of “critically endangered” in 2011 because of continued threats faced in the survival of these large birds.

The Tourism & Wildlife Society of India (TWSI) has condemned the poaching of GIBs, while expressing surprise that the people in the neighbouring country continued to kill this rare species of birds. “It cannot take place without the cover provided by the government authorities in Pakistan. This incident should be probed thoroughly,” TWSI honorary secretary Harsh Vardhan said here on Friday. Mr. Vardhan said the wildlife authorities in Rajasthan had permitted captive breeding of GIB, protected under the Wildlife Protection Act, in the DNP through a project executed by the Dehradun-based Wildlife Institute of India in 2019 after a prolonged debate. Sixteen chicks of GIB are in hands now being reared in DNP by a team supported by the Houbara Breeding Centre of UAE.

“As Rajasthan shares the international border with Pakistan’s Sindh and Punjab provinces, it is suspected that Indian-bred GIBs will fly across to Pakistan’s desert and will be easy prey for the gun-toting poachers there,” Mr. Vardhan said.

The Great Indian Bustard

The Great Indian Bustard (Ardeotis nigriceps), is a bustard native to the Indian subcontinent. Bustards are large terrestrial birds found in dry grasslands and steppe regions.

Also known as the Indian Bustard, it is among the heaviest of flying birds in existence.

Characteristics of the Great Indian Bustard

Weighing about 15 kgs, the great Indian bustard is easily recognisable by its black cap over a pale head and neck. The male deep sandy buff coloured and its breast band turns black during the mating season. The female is smaller than the male.

Although the Kori bustard (Ardeotis kori) and the great bustard (Otis tarda) are bigger than it, the Great Indian Bustard is the largest flying bird in its native region, standing at about 3.3 ft tall.

The Great Indian Bustard was spread throughout India and Pakistan but now is only found in a few pockets in both the countries. Earlier present in 11 states of India, they are now restricted to the following 6 states today.

  1. Andhra Pradesh
  2. Gujarat
  3. Karnataka
  4. Maharashtra
  5. Madhya Pradesh
  6. Rajasthan

Behaviour and Habitat of the Indian Bustard

The male Indian Bustard is usually solitary but forms small flocks during the winter. The Great Indian Bustard is found in semi-arid and arid grasslands, with tall grass in the open. They are also found near farmlands as well.

The bird is omnivorous preying on insects, rodents and reptiles mostly while also consuming grass seed berries. Near farmlands they also feed on groundnut, millets and legumes pods.

When threatened the females are known to carry their young under the wing when fleeing.

Conservation Status of the Great Indian Bustard

At one point of time the Great Indian Bustard was widespread throughout the dry plains of the subcontinent. Today they number not more than 150 are known to survive as per a 2018 survey as opposed to 250 in 2011. The main threat to the birds is habitat loss and hunting. They are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972.

Despite the restrictions placed by law the population of the Great Indian Bustard is still under threat, illegal hunting is still a threat to its population. As a result the IUCN Red List has listed the Great Indian Bustard as ‘critically endangered’.

Due to increased hunting activity in Pakistan the bird is close to becoming extinct there, but conservation efforts in India are in full swing. Many sanctuaries such as the Ranebennur Blackbuck Sanctuary, Desert national Park in Gujarat, Kutch Bird Sanctuary, Great Indian Bustard Sanctuary in Maharashtra and Rollapadu Wildlife Sanctuary have a sizable population of the Indian Bustard.

Apart from housing them in sanctuaries they were also attempts to breed them in captivity in the 1970s but such programs failed. At times, increased agricultural activity and habitat changes in some national parks such as the Ranebennur Blackbuck Sanctuary have also affected the population of the bustards.

Certain conservation projects such as ‘Project Great Indian Bustard have been carried to preserve the remaining population of the birds. This project was launched by the State government of Rajasthan during the World Environment Day in 2013. It aimed to identify the exclusive habitat of the Indian bustard and fence them off to prevent human intervention along with providing closed-off breeding enclosures

In 2020 nine eggs collected from the Desert National Park were successfully incubated. If this success can be replicated then the remaining population of the Great Indian Bustard might survive.

2. Raul Castro steps down as head of Communist Party of Cuba

His family’s six-decade rule comes to an end; Miguel Díaz-Canel is the likely successor

Raul Castro said on Friday he is stepping down as head of Cuba’s Communist Party, ending an era of formal leadership that began with his brother Fidel and country’s 1959 revolution.

The 89-year-old Castro made the announcement in a speech at the opening of the eighth congress of the ruling party, the only one allowed on the island.

He said he was retiring with the sense of having “fulfilled his mission and confident in the future of the fatherland.”

“Nothing, nothing, nothing is forcing me to make this decision,” said Mr. Castro, part of whose speech to the closed Congress was aired on state television. “As long as I live I will be ready with my foot in the stirrup to defend the homeland, the revolution and socialism with more force than ever.”

Mr. Castro didn’t say who he would endorse as his successor as first secretary of the Communist Party. But he previously indicated he favours yielding control to 60-year-old Miguel Díaz-Canel, who succeeded him as President in 2018 and is the standard bearer of a younger generation of loyalists who have been pushing an economic opening without touching one-party system.

Photographs released by the official Cuban News Agency showed Mr. Castro, dressed in an olive green uniform, entering the compound with Mr. Díaz-Canel by his side.

Mr. Castro’s retirement means that for the first time in more than six decades Cubans won’t have a Castro formally guiding their affairs and many had been expecting the change.

“One has to step aside for the young people,” said 64-year-old retiree Juana Busutil.

Pace of reforms

The transition comes at a difficult time for Cuba, with many on the island anxious about what lies ahead.

The pandemic, painful financial reforms and restrictions imposed by the Trump administration have battered the economy, which shrank 11% last year as a result of a collapse in tourism and remittances. Long food lines and shortages have brought back echoes of the “special period” that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s.

Much of the debate inside Cuba is focused on the pace of reform, with many complaining that the so-called “historic generation” represented by Mr. Castro has been too slow to open the economy.

India Cuba Relations

  • India shares close, warm and historical relations with Cuba and both countries are founding members of the Non-Aligned Movement.
  • In 1959, the Cuban-Argentinean guerrilla commander Ernesto Che Guevara paid a diplomatic visit to India and was welcomed by the then Prime Minister Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru.
  • In 2019, India supported the resolutions in the UN General Assembly calling for lifting of US sanctions against Cuba.
  • India and Cuba agreed to collaborate in the areas of Biotechnology, Homeopathy and the traditional system of medicine during the visit of the President of India to Cuba in 2019.

3. Can Covaxin booster dose prolong protection?

The booster dose will be given six months after the second dose, the company is to follow up the participants for at least six months

In a meeting held on March 24, the Subject Expert Committee (SEC) of the India drug regulator permitted Bharat Biotech to carry out a phase-2 trial of Covaxin wherein a booster dose is to be administered six months after the second dose to further improve vaccine efficacy. Currently, two doses of Covaxin are administered 28 days apart.

In the phase-2 trial 380 participants were recruited in all and were split into two groups of 190 each to receive either 3 microgram or 6 microgram of the vaccine. With the SEC directing Bharat Biotech to conduct the booster dose study only in the cohort that received 6 microgram of the vaccine, the phase-2 booster dose trial will be limited to 190 participants.

The booster dose will be given six months after the second dose and the company has been directed to follow up the participants who get a booster dose for at least six months.

Virologist Dr. Jacob John, formerly with CMC Vellore, feels that providing a booster dose will be a good idea in increasing the duration of protection. “The immunological principle says that to make long-lived antibody secreting cells as well as long-lived memory T cells, the first and second dose should be given 28 days apart and the third dose should be given with a minimum gap of four months after the second dose and optimally five months after the second dose,” he says.

Priming and boosting

According to him, when only two doses of the vaccine are given with a gap of 28 days between doses, the immunity would last for about a year or so. “So if the disease is around for more than a year, then a booster dose is needed after a year if only two doses are given one month apart,” says Dr. John. “The reason being that the first dose is a priming dose while the second dose given 28 days later is partially priming and partially boosting. As a result, the boosting effect of the second dose is short-lived, which is about a year.”

Since Covaxin uses an inactivated virus platform, the virus does not multiply in the body and so the antigen level is maximum only for a day or two. In order to stimulate the immune system, a second dose is needed.

He warns that when the second dose is given less than 28 days after the first, no boosting effect is achieved, and when given after 28 days, the booster effect is only partial and will last for about a year. So a booster dose will be needed after a year if the disease is around. “If the third dose is administered four–five months after the second dose, the immunological principle is that the immunity will be long-lived. This is because the antibody secreting cells will be treated specially by the body and will be taken into the bone marrow and will live for years and continue secreting antibodies,” Dr. John says.

North Arcot study

He recalls the North Arcot (in Tamil Nadu) Polio study of 1986–95 where the inactivated polio vaccine was tested as three doses under the government’s watch. As required by ICMR, the study compared oral polio vaccine (OPV) and the inactivated polio vaccine (IPV).

While the CDC recommends four doses, most countries use three doses of inactivated polio vaccine. In the beginning, three doses of inactivated polio vaccine were given, with the second and third doses given with one month gap. But even after three doses a booster was needed a year later.

But the second dose given with at least eight weeks gap after the first resulted in higher antibody levels and longer duration of protection. However, a booster dose is still required and so the third dose is given a year after the second dose.

In the North Arcot Polio study of 1986–1995, Dr. John and his team administered the first dose at 14 weeks and the second dose 22 weeks later. The third dose was administered at nine months of age. “Polio almost disappeared,” Dr. John vividly recalls. Despite the very encouraging results of the study, the government dumped inactivated polio vaccine and instead went ahead using oral polio vaccine to combat polio in the country. Unfortunately, even the results of the study were not published.

Drop in cases

But in 1998, Dr. John and three others included the critical data of the North Arcot Polio study in a paper in The Lancet. The paper dealing with district-level disease surveillance showed that increasing vaccine coverage both in private and public health facilities resulted in a substantial drop in the prevalence of vaccine-preventable diseases. In the case of polio, the drop was from 150 cases in private hospitals and 116 cases in government hospitals in 1989 to just 14 polio cases in private hospitals and five cases in government hospitals six years later in 1995. “The intervention was not to eradicate but to contain polio,” says Dr. John recalling the study.

Even in the case of the HPV vaccine, three doses were initially given, with the second dose given a month after the first and the third dose given at six months. “Scientists soon found that the second dose was irrelevant. If the gap between the first and second dose is more than five months then a third dose is not required,” he says. “Protection between the first and second dose is not good. But since there is no pandemic and we don’t need short-term protection, the second dose of HPV is generally administered six months later. If both short-term and long-term protection is needed then three doses at 0-1-6 months interval are needed for HPV.”

Given the immunological principle that immunity will be long-lived when a third dose of inactivated vaccine is given four–five months after the second dose (SEC has asked Bharat Biotech to give the booster dose six months after the second dose) and examples of long-lived immunity in case of IPV and HPV vaccines, which too are inactivated vaccines, Dr. John is optimistic that protection from Covaxin can be prolonged with a booster dose.

4. The story of 220-million-year-old rat-like creatures via microfossils

The teeth were studied and compared with previously reported cynodonts

The Tiki Formation in Madhya Pradesh, a treasure trove of vertebrate fossils, has now yielded a new species and two genera of cynodonts, small rat-like animals that lived about 220 million years ago.

The researchers from the Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, used scanning electron microscopy to study about 10 teeth samples collected from the village of Tihki in Shahdol District, Madhya Pradesh.

Teeth trail

The teeth were studied for size, crown shape, structure of the cusps and compared with previously reported cynodonts. The results showed that they had found a new species, and they named it Rewaconodon indicus, indicating India, the country it was discovered from.

The team also identified two new genera from the area. The first was named Inditherium floris, after India and the Latin word therium meaning beast. As the teeth had a flower-shaped crown, it earned the species name floris. The second was named Tikiodon cromptoni, after Tiki Formation and Greek word odon meaning tooth. The species name is after paleontologist A.W. Crompton.

Evolutionary link

Sanghamitra Ray, the corresponding author of the work, explains: “Cynodonts are important in evolutionary studies as this group ultimately gave rise to the present-day mammals. By studying their molar and premolar teeth, we see how they slowly evolved and modified. Their crown shape shows that these animals are actually intermediate forms that are very near to the mammalian line of evolution.” She is from the Department of Geology and Geophysics at the Indian Institute of Technology, Kharagpur.

Advait M. Jukar from the Department of Paleobiology at the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution, who was not involved in the work explains some more: “Cynodonts and living mammals both belong to a group of egg-laying vertebrates (amniotes) called synapsids. The close relationship of cynodonts with living mammals is seen in their bones. They also have differentiated teeth ( for example, different teeth in the front of mouths compared with the back), a secondary palate in their mouths, which, like humans, allowed them to breathe and eat at the same time. Some cynodonts show evidence for the inferred presence of whiskers and fur.”

DNA analysis

When asked if DNA studies can be done on these teeth Dr. Ray explained that as the samples are extremely old, the organic matter would have completely degraded making it impossible to look at DNA.

About eighty cynodont genera have been reported from around the world. The ones similar to the newly discovered ones were previously found in Laurasia which includes North America, England, Germany, Switzerland, France, and Belgium. “This possibly suggests abiotic interchange between India and Laurasian regions and/or similarity in paleoclimatic conditions, but this requires further study,” according to the paper, which is recently published in the Journal of Paleontology.

5. ARIES facility will host the support centre for Aditya-L1

The centre will expand the visibility of Aditya-L1 in the international arena

The Indian programme to study the Sun and the region between the Sun and the Earth from space – Aditya-L1 – is due to be launched next year. It will carry seven payloads which have been developed by various institutions across the country. Once the mission is launched, there will be a need for a ground support centre to monitor and coordinate the work on its various payloads. This role will be played by the ARIES facility (short for Aryabhata Research Institute for observational Sciences) which is situated near Nainital. In January 2021, an agreement was signed to this effect based on the proposal submitted by the ARIES team, led by Dipankar Banerjee, Director of ARIES, who is a solar physicist and co-chair of the science working group of the Aditya-L1 mission. With about four to five personnel, this centre will come up at Haldawani, where ARIES is setting up a data centre also.

Guest users

Researchers who may not even be associated with core Aditya-L1 team will be able to book a specific payload to conduct observations for a particular time. Any PhD student or postdoctoral fellow in a research institution can submit observing proposals through the online proposal submission system. “The main aim of this centre is to let every researcher in India perform analysis over scientific data obtained from Aditya-L1. The total number of guest users will be from a few tens to a few hundreds,” says Prof. Banerjee. A time allocation committee comprising senior and expert scientists will evaluate proposals based on their merit and feasibility to decide the priority. “We are open to users outside India by giving hand-outs of data analysis during international meetings and online training in the later phase of the mission,” he adds.

Studying lower corona

The Aditya-L1 Support Centre (ASC) will provide training through regular workshops for the guest users. Apart from this, it will provide ready-to-use Python and Java apps for the satellite data and demos and handouts to facilitate the guest users. An ARIES team has recently developed an algorithm to study the accelerating solar eruptions in the lower corona called CMEs Identification in Inner Solar Corona (in short, CIISCO), where CME stands for coronal mass ejection. Prof. Banerjee explains how this will be put to use: “The centre will also provide source code for advanced data analysis. For example, it will provide the source code for CIISCO that we have developed in ARIES to detect accelerating CMEs in the solar atmosphere.”

The group has also developed several advanced image processing algorithms to detect fine-scale structures in the solar atmosphere. Such techniques are important to capture dynamics at different spatial and temporal scales. Prof. Banerjee gives an example of this: “While ISRO will provide raw and calibrated spectra of the solar atmosphere, at ASC we will further process the spectra to derive meaningful quantities such as intensity, Doppler velocities and line widths and provide these quantities to the scientific community.”

The facility will store co-aligned data from other observatories. That is, data taken at other wavelengths of observation than by Aditya-L1 and aligned in time and space so that they complement Aditya-L1 observations.

Long-term plans

The centre will host a compendium of the location and duration of different features on the solar surface such as coronal holes, prominences, flares, CMEs and sunspots. “We will employ automated methods to detect these features,” he says. Continuous monitoring of the location and duration of these features will help in monitoring the Earth directed CMEs and thereby, the space weather. “Also, it will help us to understand the long-term evolution of these features and underlying physical mechanisms responsible for this,” says Prof. Banerjee.

“This centre will expand the visibility of Aditya-L1 beyond India at the international level.

Also, it will expand its reach within India. It will allow every interested individual to be able to perform scientific analysis of the data,” he adds.

6. Assessing students amid a pandemic

What methods can Boards employ for evaluation after the cancellation of exams?

The story so far: Faced with a massive surge in COVID-19 cases, the Central government cancelled the Central Board of Secondary Education’s (CBSE) Class X examination and postponed the Class XII examination scheduled to be held from May 4. The decision, which will be reviewed by the Ministry of Education on June 1, was followed by the Indian Certificate of Secondary Education (ICSE or Class X) and Indian School Certificate (ISC or Class XII) examinations also being postponed, with a review scheduled in the first week of June. As of Saturday, the International Baccalaureate and several State Boards had taken similar decisions.

What are the challenges?

Aligning examinations of various Boards is a practical necessity since admission to higher education courses must be done uniformly and entrance examinations have to be conducted for professional courses. While the government has bought itself time to address the wildfire spread of COVID-19 by getting public examinations out of the way, students are left wondering about the nature of formative academic assessment that will be applied to their Class X performance during the year gone by, which was marked by a shift to online classes and TV-based instruction. For many, it was a total lack of access without electricity, connectivity, computers and smartphones. The challenge now is to take up formative assessments where pen-and-pencil annual examinations cannot be held.

What is formative assessment?

The annual high-stakes public school examination is referred to as a summative assessment. It had to be cancelled or deferred this year due to the pandemic, and the academic system had to fall back on continuous evaluation techniques or other metrics. This is known as formative assessment. According to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the key aspects of this pattern are use of observation, quizzes, assignments and feedback. While summative assessment is described as a ‘testing of learning’, formative assessment is ‘testing for learning,’ which helps teachers assess the strengths and weaknesses of individual students and suggest remedial measures. The CBSE introduced a formative assessment system through a Continuous and Comprehensive Evaluation (CCE) framework in 2009-10, but abandoned it in favour of a compulsory public examination for Class X, eight years later.

However, the year 2020-21 stands apart due to the disruption to routine schooling and the use of online and remote instruction. UNESCO says that in such a remote-learning situation, formative assessment has to rely on Learning Management Solutions and digital tools such as the open-source Moodle, Google Classroom and Schoology, and other tools that facilitate the creation of adaptive instructions for personalised learning.

Many teachers in India used video-calling tools to deliver instructional material and to coach and assess students. The Boards must now come up with a formative assessment framework that fixes clear metrics.

How have schools responded?

After the latest move by the Centre, prominent CBSE schools say they will not face disruption because they conducted periodic internal examinations, practicals, as well as “pre-Board” testing for Class X. This will be useful to evaluate students.

However, the switch from a reformist model of formative assessment to the traditional public examination was not seen as a move forward by others. The decision to reintroduce a public examination for Class X in CBSE was defended by the then Human Resource Development Minister, Prakash Javadekar, as the removal of discrimination against 1.93 crore secondary students of State and other Boards who continued to take an exit examination.

Can all schools assess fairly?

The question of schools’ capabilities to conduct sound formative assessments has become important because not all have similar facilities. While CBSE schools may be more urbanised, the picture for other Boards is mixed. The Unified District Information System for Education data show that in 2017-18, there were 1,88,742 rural schools and 83,207 urban schools under all managements.

Data from the National Sample Survey (NSS) for the same year indicate that only 4% of rural households and 23% of urban households had a computer. Internet access was restricted to 15% of rural and 42% of urban households.

What reforms are needed?

As COVID-19 cases from the first wave dropped, CBSE launched a competency-based assessment plan for Classes VI to X in March this year, aligned with the National Education Policy (NEP), 2020. It was prepared jointly with the British Council, for science, mathematics and English. The aim was to strengthen critical thinking and analytical capacity for competency-based learning.

In fact, even the National Policy on Education, 1986, had de-emphasised rote learning and recommended a CCE-like framework. The NEP 2020 emphasises (formative) assessment for learning and critiques existing Board examinations as forcing students “to learn a very narrow band of content/material in a single stream”. Future reforms would, therefore, have to work on two fronts — to ensure access to learning for every student, in classrooms or remotely, and make formative assessment possible through a scientifically designed set of metrics.

7. Copyright war

How will the U.S. Supreme Court verdict in the Oracle vs. Google case affect the software industry?

The story so far: On April 5, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favour of Alphabet Inc.’s Google in a case where it was accused by Oracle of violating the country’s copyright law. The case, dubbed “the copyright case of the century”, began with Oracle’s charge in the San Francisco federal district court in 2010 that Google’s Android platform infringed upon its copyright in a platform called Java SE. In the process of finally being decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in a 6-2 verdict, this case made its journey through a federal district court and an appellate court twice.

What is the background of the case?

Oracle’s lawsuit came shortly after it acquired Sun Microsystems, which had developed the Java language. Consequently, it came to own the copyright in Java SE (standard edition), a platform that programmers use to build programs that work on any personal computer. Oracle’s charge was that Google copied a part of this platform’s program while developing the Android platform for programmers.

What did the courts find?

The courts found that Google did negotiate with Sun Microsystems, prior to it being bought by Oracle, to license the use of the Java platform in Android. But negotiations fell through. Eventually, as the Supreme Court noted, it created the Android platform software using the services of about 100 engineers who worked for more than three years. But Google also wanted the millions of Java programmers around the world to be able to work with Android seamlessly. As Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in the majority opinion, “It also copied roughly 11,500 lines of code from the Java SE program.”

What were the legal questions that the Supreme Court had to weigh in on?

Prior to Google bringing the case to the Supreme Court, the Federal Circuit, an appeals court, had ruled in Oracle’s favour. The lower courts had focused on two major questions, something that the Supreme Court had to review. The first was whether Oracle could copyright the part of the code that Google copied, and the second was whether the copying constituted fair use, if the answer to the first was in the affirmative.

In ruling in Oracle’s favour, the Federal Circuit had held that the portion of the copied code is copyrightable and that Google’s act did not constitute fair use. The Supreme Court decided to sidestep the first question, saying, “In reviewing that decision, we assume, for argument’s sake, that the material was copyrightable.” The question of the copyrightability of the code remains significant also because the lower courts gave different judgments on it. But the Supreme Court decided the second question in Google’s favour, saying that its copying of a part of the code constituted fair use, and therefore it did not violate the copyright law.

What is fair use?

According to the U.S. Copyright Office, “Fair use is a legal doctrine that promotes freedom of expression by permitting the unlicensed use of copyright-protected works in certain circumstances.” So, activities such as “criticism, comment, news reporting, teaching, scholarship, and research” may qualify under fair use. In other words, these activities can be exempt from copyright infringement charges.

How did the court decide that Google’s action came under the ambit of fair use?

Section 107 of the U.S. copyright law provides a framework to judge fair use. It contains four factors, in the following order — the purpose of the use, the nature of the copyrighted work, the substantiality of the portion used in relation to the whole work, and the effect of the usage upon the potential market.

The court decided to start with the second factor, the nature of the copyrighted work. What worked in Google’s favour was that the court made a distinction between a code “that actually instructs a computer to execute a task” and the code that Google copied, which were the lines of an API (application programming interface), which “allows programmers to call upon prewritten computing tasks for use in their own programs”. To understand this, it is best to go back to the district court’s explanation of what happened. That court said, “An API is like a library. Each package is like a bookshelf in the library. Each class is like a book on the shelf. Each method is like a how-to-do-it chapter in a book. Go to the right shelf, select the right book, and open it to the chapter that covers the work you need.”

The Supreme Court said Google’s copying was transformative, as it “copied only what was needed to allow programmers to work in a different computing environment” (which is Android) using a familiar programming language (Java).

What is the implication of this ruling?

There is a view that the software industry is relieved that the Supreme Court differentiated between the type of code Google copied, i.e., software interface, and other creative codes. Digital rights group Electronic Frontier Foundation said, “This decision gives more legal certainty to software developers’ common practice of using, re-using, and re-implementing software interfaces written by others, a custom that underlies most of the internet and personal computing technologies we use every day.”

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