The documentation says it's immutable:
http://code.google.com/apis/protocolbuffers/docs/reference/java-generated.html#messageand
this code is heavily used in production, so you can bank on that.

The only way I can see that this would be accomplished would be by
returning a *copy* of the underlying protocol buffer, wrapped in something
without mutators.  Copying protocol buffers is quite cheap and this
wouldn't require volatile or any locks to work. But I don't have access to
code right here, right now to check this...

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