Linked by Thom Holwerda on Fri 13th Apr 2012 09:40 UTC
Legal "Oracle's case against Google has evolved primarily into a copyright infringement suit over the past several months, and with the full trial scheduled to begin this coming Monday, the court is making an effort to get down to the nuts and bolts of copyright law. The judge issued an order last week requiring that both Google and Oracle provide their respective positions on a fundamental issue in the case: 'Each side shall take a firm yes or no position on whether computer programming languages are copyrightable'." Seems like an easy enough answer to me, especially since Oracle's example doesn't hold up at all - Oracle points to Klingon's custom glyphs to illustrate that a language can fall under copyright, but unlike Klingon, a programming language uses standard glyphs we all use every day. Arguing you can copyright that is borderline psychotic, and opens up a whole can of worms.
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jburnett
Member since:
2012-03-29

"I'm sorry, but I just don't see what Freedom of Speech has to do in this case. No person speaks Java, only machines.


Machines understand Java, but it was designed for people writing it, to tell machines what to do. You could argue that only people speak Java.

If you designed any language and you start publishing expressions of it for other people to read and understand, freedom of speech gives those readers the right to also use that language to express ideas. Once they have learned that language and thoughts in that language start forming in their minds, freedom of speech allows them to express those thoughts. If you would be allowed to obtain copyright on a language, that would be very cruel if it led to other people not being allowed to express themselves in it.
"

Assume authored languages are protected by freedom of speech. Freedom of speech can be limited by time, place, and manner. Copyright, which is also in the Constitution remember, does nothing more than limit the manner of speech that may be allowed for a specific period of time. So even if authored languages are protected speech, they can still be constrained. Otherwise, copyright (which is in the constitution) would be unconstitutional.

Copyright might be cruel, but cruelty is not unconstitutional except as a punishment (8th Amend.). Besides, you would get really divided answers as to what is more cruel, copyright or letting the masses take an author's work because they want to express themselves in a medium they knew (or should have known) was not theirs when they decided they wanted to use it.

And yes, I know, Oracle made it public and free and told people to use it and blah, blah, blah. That might make a difference in this specific case. Heck, it probably makes a big difference in this case because of how they did it.

But beware naïveté. It is dangerous to extend the facts in this case to a much more sweeping condemnation of copyrightability in general. Copyright specifically protected publishing expressions of ideas. How can you refuse protection because an author is "publishing expressions of it for other people to read and understand?"

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