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 Alfman on Thu 3rd May 2012 04:13 UTC in reply to "RE[3]: NOT APIs"
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"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."

You'd include the expression of an API, in your words. In programming terms that'd be tantamount to a list of structures and function prototypes.

Are you arguing that API's aren't copyrightable, but expressions of that API are? I guess you might say that but I honestly don't think that's what the EU court was saying. I think they want to exclude "expressions of APIs" from copyrightability because there's so little room for meaningful expression when expressing a compatible API.

"Also, I don't understand this GPL vs LGPL thing that was brought up."

It's probably nothing, but if function prototypes in header files that used to be covered under the GPL license are no longer being covered, then it could be possible to release proprietary programs that link to GPL libraries as is normally permitted only under the LGPL.

Edited 2012-05-03 04:20 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

by galvanash on Thu 3rd May 2012 04:29 in reply to "RE[4]: NOT APIs"
galvanash Member since:

Are you arguing that API's aren't copyrightable, but expressions of that API are?

Yes, but I'm not really arguing it - that is exactly what the court decision stated. Did you read the decision?

"The Court recalls, first, that the Directive on the legal protection of computer programs extends copyright protection to the expression in any form of an intellectual creation of the author of a computer program. However, ideas and principles which underlie any element of a computer program, including those which underlie its interfaces, are not protected by copyright under that directive.
Thus, only the expression of those ideas and principles is protected by copyright."

"As the Advocate General states in point 57 of his Opinion, to accept that the functionality of a computer program can be protected by copyright would amount to making it possible to monopolise ideas, to the detriment of technological progress and industrial development."

In other words they are saying that you can't copyright an API because APIs are not expressions of an idea - they are ideas. The expression (the source code, the documentation, whatever) can be copyrighted - but that does not protect the idea itself (i.e. it's form and function).

Reply Parent Score: 3

by Alfman on Thu 3rd May 2012 05:38 in reply to "RE[5]: NOT APIs"
Alfman Member since:


I only read the article, in particular:

"The EU's highest court rejected these arguments. Computer code itself can be copyrighted, but functional characteristics—such as data formats and function names—cannot be."

This clearly describes a header file which contains no code as being non-copyrightable, but perhaps the article was misleading.

I thank you for the citations.

However I'm finding the "ideas & principals" argument to be somewhat contradictory with the conclusions.

Strongly typed languages like java store the entire class definition in binary form (java reverse compilers can recreate the source files almost line for line). Thus, the API is fully expressed in the binary. The binary expression of a compatible function/class prototype will very likely need to be identical to the binary expression of the original function/class prototype. So would the court still claim that an API is not copyrightable under those circumstances even when the language mandates the expression of such an API to be recorded the same way each time it is expressed as a binary?

To be honest, I preferred the article's stronger interpretation of explicit non-copyrightability where function names and prototypes were simply excluded from copyright without regards to how they are expressed.

Edited 2012-05-03 05:42 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

by dylansmrjones on Thu 3rd May 2012 09:38 in reply to "RE[4]: NOT APIs"
dylansmrjones Member since:

Are you arguing that API's aren't copyrightable, but expressions of that API are?"

That's exactly what the court did, and I'm surprised it was even necessary. Laws in EU are quite simple and awfully clear in this regard. An API is not copyrightable, but the implementation of the API is.

Or put differently: You can create headerfiles with the same names and with the same name for methods and variables, but the code must be different, since the code (the total combination) is copyrightable.

Reply Parent Score: 5