Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 2nd May 2012 22:32 UTC, submitted by PLan
Legal "The European Court of Justice ruled on Wednesday that application programming interfaces and other functional characteristics of computer software are not eligible for copyright protection. Users have the right to examine computer software in order to clone its functionality - and vendors cannot override these user rights with a license agreement, the court said." Bravo. A landmark ruling, for sure. If the US courts decide in favour of Oracle in the Google-Oracle case, Europe would instantly become an even friendlier place for technology companies.
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by ndrw on Thu 3rd May 2012 02:04 UTC in reply to "NOT APIs"
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Hmm.. does it mean that from now in Europe GPL==LGPL?

After all #including a header file, and then linking to a library at run-time, is just using an API.

Reply Parent Score: 7

by Alfman on Thu 3rd May 2012 02:55 in reply to "RE: NOT APIs"
Alfman Member since:

That's an incredibly insightful observation. If an API isn't copyrightable, and gets included into a project, then the project should not be considered derived from a copyrighted work.

I don't know how that will play out, however I'd like to bring up GPLv3 section 12:

"12. No Surrender of Others' Freedom.

If conditions are imposed on you (whether by court order, agreement or otherwise) that contradict the conditions of this License, they do not excuse you from the conditions of this License. If you cannot convey a covered work so as to satisfy simultaneously your obligations under this License and any other pertinent obligations, then as a consequence you may not convey it at all. For example, if you agree to terms that obligate you to collect a royalty for further conveying from those to whom you convey the Program, the only way you could satisfy both those terms and this License would be to refrain entirely from conveying the Program."

So rather than reverting to LGPL, the GPL states the right to redistribute under the GPL is voided. But since APIs cannot be covered by copyright, what the GPL says is irreverent, so it would effectively loose it's "viral" property and become LGPL. On the other hand, the GPL's provision to void itself could be interpreted as applying to the complete work (API plus source code) instead of just individual header files in isolation.

Of course this would be for the case of dynamic linking, static linking would probably constitute a covered copy in any case because it's still pulling in actual code.

And so our little computer science drama unfolds...

Reply Parent Score: 3

by galvanash on Thu 3rd May 2012 03:13 in reply to "RE[2]: NOT APIs"
galvanash Member since:

That's an incredibly insightful observation. If an API isn't copyrightable, and gets included into a project, then the project should not be considered derived from a copyrighted work.

And how would you include an API in a project? I don't understand the angle your looking at this from. Writing down the specifics of an API (whether in documentation or in source code) doesn't include the API, it merely expresses it. An API is an idea - it is the expression of the idea that is copyrighted, not the idea itself.

To put it another way, you can copyright a program that expresses a totally original idea, but your copyright does not cover the idea, it only covers your implementation. Anyone is free to look at what your program does and create an independent implementation that does exactly the same thing. Remember, we are not taking about patents...

Also, I don't understand this GPL vs LGPL thing that was brought up. The difference between those two licenses rest solely on an explicit exception in the LGPL to allow linking without the license affecting the linked work. How does this decision apply to this? Neither the GPL or the LGPL have any clauses in them concerning reverse engineering or barring the other party from creating an independent implementation. Hell, reverse engineering is practically encouraged in the OSS world...

As an aside... This ruling, if made in US courts, could possibly cast doubt on parts of the DMCA anti-circumvention law. I don't think it would invalidate it, but it does seemingly conflict with it - at least in spirit.

Edited 2012-05-03 03:30 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 4

by cfgr on Thu 3rd May 2012 03:37 in reply to "RE[2]: NOT APIs"
cfgr Member since:

Indeed. I have always wondered how that was enforceable.

import xmllib

I'm sure there are several implementations of such an xmllib with the same API, and the exact implementation/licence depends on the library you are using at runtime. How can library A then demand that your software must be GPL'd? Even when it is the only library, the developer doesn't necessarily use and definitely doesn't distribute the code. The end-user is the one doing the puzzling.

In fact, I recall that the FSF did not consider including header files as derivative works[1]. In dynamic languages such as python, you don't even include anything before distributing it. This difference between GPL and LGPL has always been a bit fuzzy to me. Perhaps this is why many prefer to avoid the GPL nowadays.


The discussion is quite interesting to follow while keeping this court ruling about API's in mind.

Edited 2012-05-03 03:43 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 1