Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The most important Supreme Court case in modern Silicon Valley history came to oral arguments on Wednesday.

Why it matters: Oracle is suing Google for writing some specialized code, known as an API, which allowed developers to code in Oracle's Java programming language when building Android apps. Oracle claims copyright on Java APIs, and wants $9 billion in damages.

  • The cognitive disconnect comes from the fact that Oracle is simultaneously trying to spend billions of dollars in an attempt to align itself with the business model of TikTok, which is entirely based on reusing copyrighted material without payment to the rights holders.

Background: There's no doubt where Silicon Valley stands with regard to the Supreme Court case — and it's not with Oracle. Just one amicus brief was signed by just about every living software-engineering legend in the Valley, and other companies like Microsoft, IBM and Mozilla have also sided with Google.

  • The Supreme Court is not tech Twitter, however, and the outcome could easily go Oracle's way.

Be smart: The APIs in question were written by Sun Microsystems, an engineering-led Silicon Valley company that respected remix culture and interoperability and would never have sued Google like this. But then Sun was bought by Oracle, and the Sun culture changed.

  • TikTok is the essence of remix culture — a place where dance routines and snippets of music get reimagined by millions of users. The music copyright holders, like Sun Microsystems, might not love the fact that they aren't being directly paid for that use, but they know that when other companies help them turn up in new contexts, they ultimately make more money.

The bottom line: Culture matters, and it's hard to see how TikTok can coexist over the long term alongside a litigious sales organization like Oracle. Maybe that explains why Oracle, unlike Walmart, isn't seeking a board seat at TikTok.

Go deeper: In Google/Oracle case, Supreme Court will weigh software's future

Go deeper

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

It's taken Google two decades to transform from a beloved search innovator into a Big Tech behemoth.

Flashback: At Google's launch 22 years ago, it provided accurate, simple, fast results — unlike its competitors in search, which had become bloated "portals" — and quickly won the hearts first of Internet insiders and then of the broader public.

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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

The Justice Department fired the starter pistol on what's likely to be a years-long legal siege of Big Tech by the U.S. government when it filed a major antitrust suit Tuesday against Google.

The big picture: Once a generation, it seems, federal regulators decide to take on a dominant tech company. Two decades ago, Microsoft was the target; two decades before that, IBM.

The Microsoft case's long shadow over Google

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Microsoft's epic battle with the U.S. government from 1997-2002, the last major federal antitrust action in tech, casts a long shadow over today's Department of Justice lawsuit against Google — but the industry landscape today is profoundly different.

The big picture: Microsoft's legal ordeal came at a moment when its old competitors, like Apple, were on the ropes, and new competitors, like Google, were just launching. The antitrust case preoccupied Bill Gates and the rest of Microsoft's leadership for years and arguably gave all those competitors the breathing room to grow toward their current success.