Supreme Court Backs Google in Copyright Fight With Oracle

Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Neil M. Gorsuch and Brett M. Kavanaugh joined the majority opinion. Justice Amy Coney Barrett did not participate in the case, which was argued before she joined the court.

In dissent, Justice Clarence Thomas, joined by Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., said leapfrogging the first question was a grave analytical misstep. “The court wrongly sidesteps the principal question that we were asked to answer,” he wrote, adding that he would have ruled that the code was protected by copyright laws.

The majority’s approach was inexplicable, Justice Thomas wrote, and its rationale — that technology is rapidly changing — was odd, as change “has been a constant where computers are concerned.”

Justice Breyer used what he called a “far-fetched” analogy to describe what the contested code did. “Imagine that you can, via certain keystrokes, instruct a robot to move to a particular file cabinet, to open a certain drawer, and to pick out a specific recipe,” he wrote. “With the proper recipe in hand, the robot then moves to your kitchen and gives it to a cook to prepare the dish.”

Justice Breyer wrote that the four fair-use factors set out in the Copyright Act all supported Google. The nature of the code, he wrote, “is inextricably bound together with a general system, the division of computing tasks, that no one claims is a proper subject of copyright.”

Google’s use of the code, he added, created something new. “It seeks to expand the use and usefulness of Android-based smartphones,” Justice Breyer wrote. “Its new product offers programmers a highly creative and innovative tool for a smartphone environment.”

Nor did Google copy too much of Oracle’s code. The 11,000 lines of code at issue, he wrote, amounted to 0.4 percent of the relevant universe of code.

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Google to welcome some employees back to office in April.

Google employees in the United States will likely be allowed to return to the office next month, the company said on Wednesday.

Google and other tech companies that shuttered their offices at the start of the pandemic are gradually reopening work spaces as vaccines become widely available. Facebook told employees that its Menlo Park headquarters would open in May, and Uber has allowed a limited number of employees to return to its San Francisco offices. Other tech companies, like Twitter, have allowed employees to work from home indefinitely.

Workers at Google will have the option to return in April, Fiona Cicconi, Google’s chief people officer, told employees in an email seen by The New York Times. Offices will operate at a limited capacity, and reopenings will vary state by state, based on the number of coronavirus cases in the area, Ms. Cicconi said.

“Offices will begin to open in a limited capacity based on specific criteria that include increases in vaccine availability and downward trends in Covid-19 cases,” Ms. Cicconi wrote. “We advise you to get a vaccine, though it will not be mandatory to have one in order for Googlers to return to the office.”

Workers who do opt to return will be required to wear masks, practice social distancing and pass a health survey, Google said.

Google said that it would not change the September date, when it plans to require employees in the United States to return to the office, and that employees could continue to work remotely until then. Some of Google’s offices in Asia and the Middle East have already reopened.

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If You Care About Privacy, It’s Time to Try a New Web Browser

Firefox Focus, DuckDuckGo and Brave are all similar, but with some important differences.

Firefox Focus, available only for mobile devices like iPhones and Android smartphones, is bare-bones. You punch in a web address and, when done browsing, hit the trash icon to erase the session. Quitting the app automatically purges the history. When you load a website, the browser relies on a database of trackers to determine which to block.

DuckDuckGo, also available only for mobile devices, is more like a traditional browser. That means you can bookmark your favorite sites and open multiple browser tabs.

When you use the search bar, the browser returns results from the DuckDuckGo search engine, which the company says is more focused on privacy because its ads do not track people’s online behavior. DuckDuckGo also prevents ad trackers from loading. When done browsing, you can hit the flame icon at the bottom to erase the session.

Brave is also more like a traditional web browser, with anti-tracking technology and features like bookmarks and tabs. It includes a private mode that must be turned on if you don’t want people scrutinizing your web history.

Brave is also so aggressive about blocking trackers that in the process, it almost always blocks ads entirely. The other private browsers blocked ads less frequently.

For most people, not seeing ads is a benefit. But for those who want to give back to a publisher whose ads are blocked, Brave hosts its own ad network that you can opt into. In exchange for viewing ads that do not track your behavior, you earn a cut of revenue in the form of a token. You can then choose to give tokens to websites that you like. (Only web publishers that have a partnership with Brave can receive tokens.)

I tested all three browsers on my iPhone, setting each as my default browser for a few days.

All have a button to see how many trackers they blocked when loading a website. To test that, I visited nypost.com, the website of The New York Post, which loaded 83 trackers without any tracking prevention. With DuckDuckGo, 15 of the nypost.com trackers were blocked. With Brave, it was 22. And Firefox Focus blocked 47.

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Google Aims to Be the Anti-Amazon of E-Commerce. It Has a Long Way to Go.

OAKLAND, Calif. — Google tried to copy Amazon’s playbook to become the shopping hub of the internet, with little success. Now it is trying something different: the anti-Amazon strategy.

Google is trying to present itself as a cheaper and less restrictive option for independent sellers. And it is focused on driving traffic to sellers’ sites, not selling its own version of products, as Amazon does.

In the last year, Google eliminated fees for merchants and allowed sellers to list their wares in its search results for free. It is also trying to make it easier for small, independent shops to upload their inventory of products to appear in search results and buy ads on Google by teaming up with Shopify, which powers online stores for 1.7 million merchants who sell directly to consumers.

But like Google’s many attempts during its two-decade quest to compete with Amazon, this one shows little sign of working. Google has nothing as alluring as the $295 billion that passed through Amazon’s third-party marketplace in 2020. The amount of goods people buy on Google is “very small” by comparison — probably around $1 billion, said Juozas Kaziukenas, the founder of Marketplace Pulse, a research company.

grew 30 percent to $17.6 billion in 2020, trailing only Google and Facebook in the United States.

But as the pandemic has forced many stores to go online, it has created a new opening for Google to woo sellers who feel uneasy about building their businesses on Amazon.

Christina Stang, 33, opened Fritzy’s Roller Skate Shop near Pacific Beach in San Diego last March. Shelter-in-place orders forced her to set up an online storefront on Shopify.

She got lucky. She was sitting on a huge supply of skates when demand surged as skating videos became popular on TikTok during the pandemic.

the pressure to spend more to succeed. Merchants on Amazon do not have a direct relationship with their customers, limiting their ability to communicate with them and to generate future business. And because everything is contained within the Amazon world, it is harder to create a unique look and feel that express a brand’s identity the way companies can on their own websites.

piloting its own same-day delivery service, but it shuttered the project as costs ballooned. It tried to forge partnerships with traditional retail giants, only to see the alliances wilt from a lack of sales. It built its own marketplace to make it easier for shoppers to buy the things they find on Google, but was not able to break consumers from their Amazon habit.

Last year, Google brought in Bill Ready, a former chief operating officer at PayPal, to fill a new senior position and spearhead an overhaul of its shopping strategy.

Around the time of his hiring, Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, warned senior executives that the new approach could mean a short-term crimp in advertising revenue, according to two people familiar with the conversations, who requested anonymity because they were not allowed to discuss them publicly. He asked teams to support the e-commerce push because it was a company priority.

When the pandemic spurred huge demand for online shopping, Google eliminated fees, allowing retailers to list products for free and walking back a 2012 decision to allow only advertisers to display goods on its shopping site.

Three months after hiring Mr. Ready, Google said the free listings would show up on its main search results. Then Google said customers could buy products directly from merchants on Google with no commissions. It also said Google would open its platform to third parties like Shopify and PayPal so that sellers could continue to use their existing tools to manage inventory and orders and processing payments.

flocked to the software platform during the pandemic. About 9 percent of U.S. online shopping sales took place on storefronts powered by Shopify as of October, according to research firm eMarketer. That was up from 6 percent the prior year and second only to Amazon’s share of 37 percent.

Harley Finkelstein, Shopify’s president, said Google and Shopify were developing new ways for merchants to sell through Google services, such as experiments to allow customers to buy items directly on YouTube and to display what products stores are carrying in Google Maps.

Mr. Ready walked a fine line when it came to Amazon, which is a big buyer of ads on Google, but he made it clear he believed Amazon’s dominance in e-commerce posed a threat to other merchants.

“Nobody wants to live in a world where there is only one place to buy something, and retailers don’t want to be dependent on gatekeepers,” he said in an interview.

Google said it had increased the number of sellers appearing in its results by 80 percent in 2020, with the most significant growth coming from small and midsize businesses. And existing retailers are listing more products.

Overstock.com, a seller of discount furniture and home bedding, said it had paid to list products on Google in the past. But now that listings are free, Overstock is adding low-margin products, too.

“When all shopping starts and stops at Amazon, that’s bad for the industry,” said Jonathan E. Johnson, Overstock’s chief executive. “It’s nice to have another 800-pound tech gorilla in this space.”

BACtrack, a maker of breathalyzers, has more than doubled its advertising spending on Amazon in the last two years because that is where the customers are, it said, while it has spent 6 percent less advertising its products on Google.

“It seems like more and more people are skipping Google and going straight to Amazon,” said Keith Nothacker, the chief executive of BACtrack.

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Jack Dorsey says Twitter played a role in U.S. Capitol riot.

Jack Dorsey, Twitter’s chief executive, said during his congressional testimony on Thursday that the site played a role in the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, in what appeared to be the first public acknowledgment by a top social media executive of the influence of the platforms on the riot.

Mr. Dorsey’s answer came after Representative Mike Doyle, Democrat of Pennsylvania, pressed the tech chief executives at a hearing on disinformation to answer “yes” or “no” as to whether their platforms had contributed to the spread of misinformation and the planning of the attack.

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s chief executive, and Sundar Pichai, Google’s chief executive, did not answer with a “yes” or “no.” Mr. Dorsey took a different tactic.

“Yes,” he said. “But you also have to take into consideration the broader ecosystem. It’s not just about the technological systems that we use.”

Twitter and Facebook barred Mr. Trump from posting on their platforms. Their actions suggested that they saw a risk of more violence being incited from what was posted on their sites, but the executives had not previously articulated what role the platforms had played.

Representative Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat of Illinois, later asked Mr. Zuckerberg about remarks that Facebook’s chief operating officer, Sheryl Sandberg, made shortly after the riot. In a January interview with Reuters, Ms. Sandberg said that the planning for the riot had been “largely organized” on other social media platforms and downplayed Facebook’s involvement.

Ms. Schakowsky asked whether Mr. Zuckerberg agreed with Ms. Sandberg’s statement.

Mr. Zuckerberg appeared to walk back Ms. Sandberg’s remarks.“In the comment that Sheryl made what I believe that we were trying to say was, and where I stand behind, is what was widely reported at the time,” he responded.

Mr. Zuckerberg then said: “Certainly there was content on our services. From that perspective, I think there’s further work that we need to do.” He seemed to want to add more before Ms. Schakowsky interrupted him.

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Lawmakers Grill Tech C.E.O.s on Capitol Riot, Getting Few Direct Answers

WASHINGTON — Lawmakers grilled the leaders of Facebook, Google and Twitter on Thursday about the connection between online disinformation and the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, causing Twitter’s chief executive to publicly admit for the first time that his product had played a role in the events that left five people dead.

When a Democratic lawmaker asked the executives to answer with a “yes” or a “no” whether the platforms bore some responsibility for the misinformation that had contributed to the riot, Jack Dorsey of Twitter said “yes.” Neither Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook nor Sundar Pichai of Google would answer the question directly.

The roughly five-hour hearing before a House committee marked the first time lawmakers directly questioned the chief executives regarding social media’s role in the January riot. The tech bosses were also peppered with questions about how their companies helped spread falsehoods around Covid-19 vaccines, enable racism and hurt children’s mental health.

It was also the first time the executives had testified since President Biden’s inauguration. Tough questioning from lawmakers signaled that scrutiny of Silicon Valley’s business practices would not let up, and could even intensify, with Democrats in the White House and leading both chambers of Congress.

tweeted a single question mark with a poll that had two options: “Yes” or “No.” When asked about his tweet by a lawmaker, he said “yes” was winning.

The January riot at the Capitol has made the issue of disinformation deeply personal for lawmakers. The riot was fueled by false claims from President Donald J. Trump and others that the election had been stolen, which were rampant on social media.

Some of the participants had connections to QAnon and other online conspiracy theories. And prosecutors have said that groups involved in the riot, including the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys, coordinated some of their actions on social media.

ban Mr. Trump and his associates after the Jan. 6 riots. The bans hardened views by conservatives that the companies are left-leaning and are inclined to squelch conservative voices.

“We’re all aware of Big Tech’s ever-increasing censorship of conservative voices and their commitment to serve the radical progressive agenda,” said Representative Bob Latta of Ohio, the ranking Republican on the panel’s technology subcommittee.

The company leaders defended their businesses, saying they had invested heavily in hiring content moderators and in technology like artificial intelligence, used to identify and fight disinformation.

Mr. Zuckerberg argued against the notion that his company had a financial incentive to juice its users’ attention by driving them toward more extreme content. He said Facebook didn’t design “algorithms in order to just kind of try to tweak and optimize and get people to spend every last minute on our service.”

He added later in the hearing that elections disinformation was spread in messaging apps, where amplification and algorithms don’t aid in spread of false content. He also blamed television and other traditional media for spreading election lies.

The companies showed fissures in their view on regulations. Facebook has vocally supported internet regulations in a major advertising blitz on television and in newspapers. In the hearing, Mr. Zuckerberg suggested specific regulatory reforms to a key legal shield, known as Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, that has helped Facebook and other Silicon Valley internet giants thrive.

The legal shield protects companies that host and moderate third-party content, and says companies like Google and Twitter are simply intermediaries of their user-generated content. Democrats have argued that with that protection, companies aren’t motivated to remove disinformation. Republicans accuse the companies of using the shield to moderate too much and to take down content that doesn’t represent their political viewpoints.

“I believe that Section 230 would benefit from thoughtful changes to make it work better for people,” Mr. Zuckerberg said in the statement.

He proposed that liability protection for companies be conditional on their ability to fight the spread of certain types of unlawful content. He said platforms should be required to demonstrate that they have systems in place for identifying unlawful content and removing it. Reforms, he said, should be different for smaller social networks, which wouldn’t have the same resources like Facebook to meet new requirements.

Mr. Pichai and Mr. Dorsey said they supported requirements of transparency in content moderation but fell short of agreeing with Mr. Zuckerberg’s other ideas. Mr. Dorsey said that it would be very difficult to distinguish a large platform from a smaller one.

Lawmakers did not appear to be won over.

“There’s a lot of smugness among you,” said Representative Bill Johnson, a Republican of Ohio. “There’s this air of untouchable-ness in your responses to many of the tough questions that you’re being asked.”

Kate Conger and Daisuke Wakabayashi contributed reporting.

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Is a Big Tech Overhaul Just Around the Corner?

The leaders of Google, Facebook and Twitter testified on Thursday before a House committee in their first appearances on Capitol Hill since the start of the Biden administration. As expected, sparks flew.

The hearing was centered on questions of how to regulate disinformation online, although lawmakers also voiced concerns about the public-health effects of social media and the borderline-monopolistic practices of the largest tech companies.

On the subject of disinformation, Democratic legislators scolded the executives for the role their platforms played in spreading false claims about election fraud before the Capitol riot on Jan. 6. Jack Dorsey, the chief executive of Twitter, admitted that his company had been partly responsible for helping to circulate disinformation and plans for the Capitol attack. “But you also have to take into consideration the broader ecosystem,” he added. Sundar Pichai and Mark Zuckerberg, the top executives at Google and Facebook, avoided answering the question directly.

Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle returned often to the possibility of jettisoning or overhauling Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a federal law that for 25 years has granted immunity to tech companies for any harm caused by speech that’s hosted on their platforms.

393 million, to be precise, which is more than one per person and about 46 percent of all civilian-owned firearms in the world. As researchers at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health have put it, “more guns = more homicide” and “more guns = more suicide.”

But when it comes to understanding the causes of America’s political inertia on the issue, the lines of thought become a little more tangled. Some of them are easy to follow: There’s the line about the Senate, of course, which gives large states that favor gun regulation the same number of representatives as small states that don’t. There’s also the line about the National Rifle Association, which some gun control proponents have cast — arguably incorrectly — as the sine qua non of our national deadlock.

But there may be a psychological thread, too. Research has found that after a mass shooting, people who don’t own guns tend to identify the general availability of guns as the culprit. Gun owners, on the other hand, are more likely to blame other factors, such as popular culture or parenting.

Americans who support gun regulations also don’t prioritize the issue at the polls as much as Americans who oppose them, so gun rights advocates tend to win out. Or, in the words of Robert Gebelhoff of The Washington Post, “Gun reform doesn’t happen because Americans don’t want it enough.”

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Is there anything you think we’re missing? Anything you want to see more of? We’d love to hear from you. Email us at onpolitics@nytimes.com.

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Zuckerberg, Dorsey and Pichai testify about disinformation.

The chief executives of Google, Facebook and Twitter are testifying at the House on Thursday about how disinformation spreads across their platforms, an issue that the tech companies were scrutinized for during the presidential election and after the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol.

The hearing, held by the House Energy and Commerce Committee, is the first time that Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook, Jack Dorsey of Twitter and Sundar Pichai of Google are appearing before Congress during the Biden administration. President Biden has indicated that he is likely to be tough on the tech industry. That position, coupled with Democratic control of Congress, has raised liberal hopes that Washington will take steps to rein in Big Tech’s power and reach over the next few years.

The hearing is also be the first opportunity since the Jan. 6 Capitol riot for lawmakers to question the three men about the role their companies played in the event. The attack has made the issue of disinformation intensely personal for the lawmakers since those who participated in the riot have been linked to online conspiracy theories like QAnon.

Before the hearing, Democrats signaled in a memo that they were interested in questioning the executives about the Jan. 6 attacks, efforts by the right to undermine the results of the 2020 election and misinformation related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

October article in The New York Post about President Biden’s son Hunter.

Lawmakers have debated whether social media platforms’ business models encourage the spread of hate and disinformation by prioritizing content that will elicit user engagement, often by emphasizing salacious or divisive posts.

Some lawmakers will push for changes to Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a 1996 law that shields the platforms from lawsuits over their users’ posts. Lawmakers are trying to strip the protections in cases where the companies’ algorithms amplified certain illegal content. Others believe that the spread of disinformation could be stemmed with stronger antitrust laws, since the platforms are by far the major outlets for communicating publicly online.

“By now it’s painfully clear that neither the market nor public pressure will stop social media companies from elevating disinformation and extremism, so we have no choice but to legislate, and now it’s a question of how best to do it,” said Representative Frank Pallone, the New Jersey Democrat who is chairman of the committee.

The tech executives are expected to play up their efforts to limit misinformation and redirect users to more reliable sources of information. They may also entertain the possibility of more regulation, in an effort to shape increasingly likely legislative changes rather than resist them outright.

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Penny Stocks Are the Latest Trading Mania

Of all the trading manias in recent months — Bitcoin, SPACs, meme stocks, nonfungible tokens — the latest has a long history of fraud and scandal. That’s right, penny stocks are booming, according to The Times’s Matt Phillips, who visited the “low-rent district of Wall Street.”

There were 1.9 trillion transactions last month on the over-the-counter markets, where such stocks trade, according to the industry regulator Finra. That’s up more than 2,000 percent from a year earlier, driven in large part by the surge in retail trading — enabled by commission-free trading from online brokerages — that has also stoked the frenzy for shares in GameStop and other speculative assets.

left interest rates at rock-bottom levels, despite improving economic growth forecasts. But the Upshot’s Neil Irwin notes that it may become harder for Jay Powell, the Fed chair, to wave away criticism of those who think monetary policy is too loose.

The I.R.S. delays the tax filing deadline. Americans have until May 17 to file their federal income taxes, a delay meant to help people cope with the pandemic’s economic upheaval and account for changes from the rescue plan.

separate its asset-management division, replace its chief and suspend bonuses over the unit’s role in financing Greensill Capital, the supply-chain financing lender that collapsed this month.

Gasoline may have hit its peak. Global demand may never return to pre-pandemic levels, the International Energy Agency said, as more electric vehicles hit the roads and transportation habits change. Use may rise for a bit in places like China and India, but overall consumption in industrialized economies will fall by 2023.

Senate confirms President Biden’s top trade official. Katherine Tai will become the U.S. trade representative. She is a prominent critic of China’s trade practices, signaling that the White House won’t completely walk back the Trump administration’s tough stance. Top U.S. officials are to meet their Chinese counterparts for the first time today, at a summit meeting in Alaska.

Google said today that it planned to invest $7 billion in offices and data centers in 19 U.S. states, making it the latest tech giant to expand its footprint while other companies retrench in a commercial real estate market roiled by the pandemic. Google’s C.E.O., Sundar Pichai, shared the plans in a blog post, saying that the move would create 10,000 jobs at the company this year. (Alphabet, Google’s parent company, employed around 135,000 people at the end of 2020.)

Google is expanding across the country. The plan includes investments in data centers in places like Nebraska, South Carolina and Texas. The company recently opened its first office in Minnesota and an operations center in Mississippi. It will open its first office in Houston this year.

“Coming together in person to collaborate and build community is core to Google’s culture,” Mr. Pichai wrote. Google was one of the first companies to tell employees to work from home, and it expects workers to begin returning to offices in September. When that happens, it will test a “flexible workweek,” with employees spending at least three days a week in the office.

Congressional hearing which focused on the relationship between brokers like Robinhood and market makers like Citadel Securities.


SPACs have already raised more money this year than in all of 2020, setting a record for blank-check deal volume. More than $84 billion has been raised by 264 SPACs to date, according to Dealogic, compared with $83 billion raised by 256 acquisition vehicles last year.

cooperating with an S.E.C. inquiry, after a short seller accused it of misleading investors about its business prospects.


Crypto Mom,” she’s been raising the profile of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology since being appointed an S.E.C. commissioner in 2018. On “Blockchain Policy Matters,” an online show by the Blockchain Association, a trade group, Ms. Peirce described her hopes for innovation and regulation of the crypto world. DealBook got a preview of the show, which posts today.

bitcoin E.T.F.s have begun trading in Canada.

She welcomes Gary Gensler, the blockchain professor, as the agency’s next chief. President Biden’s pick to lead the S.E.C. has lectured on cryptocurrency and blockchain at M.I.T. since 2018. Ms. Peirce said she was “hopeful” that he will help the agency think “in a more sophisticated way.” She added that Mr. Gensler has “more inclination to regulate” than she does, but that she believes he’ can provide the regulatory clarity on crypto she has sought.

Blockchain technology could address the issues raised by meme-stock mania. That includes “concerns around settlement times, tracking where shares are, and who owns what shares when,” Ms. Pierce said. Distributed ledger technology like blockchain could eliminate common failure points in the financial system, rather than centralizing them, Ms. Peirce said, adding: “I hope that a lot of that innovation happens in the private sector as opposed to us taking it over as a securities regulator.”

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