Linked by Thom Holwerda on Mon 7th May 2012 20:09 UTC
Legal There's some movement in the Oracle-Google lawsuit today, but it's rather difficult to determine just what kind of movement. The jury was told by the judge Alsup to assume APIs are copyrightable - something Alsup still has to determine later during trial - and with that in mind, the judge ruled Google violated Oracle's copyright on Java. However, the jury did not come to an agreement on a rather crucial question: whether or not it was fair use. All in all, a rather meaningless verdict at this point, since it's incomplete. Also, what kind of nonsense is it for a judge to tell a jury to assume something is illegal? Am I the only one who thinks that's just complete insanity?
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RE: Sigh. Thom.
by Thom_Holwerda on Mon 7th May 2012 20:32 UTC in reply to "Sigh. Thom."
Thom_Holwerda
Member since:
2005-06-29

I find a jury system insane enough even without nonsense like this, but alas. I'm glad we don't have this medieval nonsense in this country.

But that doesn't negate the fact that the judge asked the jury to render a verdict on something we don't even know is illegal in the first place. For someone from a country without jury trial and based entirely on statutory law, this IS pure insanity.

Look, don't take it out on me we don't report on every Fedora fart anymore (I don't know what else could have crawled up your butt recently).

Edited 2012-05-07 20:33 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

v RE[2]: Sigh. Thom.
by bowkota on Mon 7th May 2012 20:58 in reply to "RE: Sigh. Thom."
RE[2]: Sigh. Thom.
by Thom_Holwerda on Mon 7th May 2012 21:11 in reply to "RE: Sigh. Thom."
Thom_Holwerda Member since:
2005-06-29

Thinking about this... I know exactly why this is so idiotic.

If not even a judge knows if APIs are copyrightable or not, how should Google have known?

A rather key element of a proper judicial system is that you cannot be found guilty of something that was not illegal at the time you did that something. E.g., if the legal limit is 80kph and I drive 80kph on Monday, and the limit is lowered on Tuesday to 70kph, I cannot be fined for my "speeding" the day before.

This is the same. Apparently, nobody knows if APIs can be copyrightable. So, how could Google have known?

To me, from the perspective of my legal system, this is pure insanity, because it creates a hell of a lot of uncertainty for civilians and companies alike.

Edited 2012-05-07 21:12 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 15

RE[3]: Sigh. Thom.
by tupp on Mon 7th May 2012 21:23 in reply to "RE[2]: Sigh. Thom."
tupp Member since:
2006-11-12

If not even a judge knows if APIs are copyrightable or not, how should Google have known?

Very insightful point!

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[3]: Sigh. Thom.
by galvanash on Mon 7th May 2012 21:24 in reply to "RE[2]: Sigh. Thom."
galvanash Member since:
2006-01-25

Not that I disagree with your point on an intellectual level, but this is a civil law suit. Things being "illegal" has little to do with it - the purpose of civil law is to right wrongs and settle disputes. You do not have to actually break any laws to wrong someone.

It would be possible, for example, for the court to determine that APIs are in fact not copyrightable and still award damages to Oracle if they feel that Google acted in bad faith or otherwise unfairly took advantage of Sun/Oracle.

I'm not saying I think Google did anything wrong - I actually don't. I'm just saying the question of whether or not APIs are copyrightable, while being very significant to most of us, is not necessarily the only issue nor should it be.

The judge instructing the jury as was done is quite common. It allows the system to short circuit (like an if statement in programming). If the jury finds that Google did not violate the Oracles "assumed" API copyright, well then the matter of whether or not APIs are copyrightable is no longer relevant and everyone can go home...

Reply Parent Score: 9

RE[3]: Sigh. Thom.
by jared_wilkes on Tue 8th May 2012 00:44 in reply to "RE[2]: Sigh. Thom."
jared_wilkes Member since:
2011-04-25

People seem constantly focused on the wrong problem. The question is: can an API contain elements which are uniquely creative and expressive? If so, those expressive elements can be copyrighted.

The judge doesn't have a problem knowing whether or not APIs can be covered by copyrights; he has difficulty disassembling what is merely functional and what is expressive.

While not strictly analogous, similar complexities can be seen when a movie "infringes" a novel by changing character names and a few plot points, changing all of the dialogue but containing a majority of the conversations expressing largely the same point, purpose, values, and content. The judge doesn't have any difficulty knowing that a novel can be copyrighted, but determining what is the uniquely expressive qualities of the source material and if the derivative relies on the source for an unfair balance of its own expressive qualities can be a substantially complex difficulty.

Edited 2012-05-08 00:46 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[3]: Sigh. Thom.
by tanishaj on Tue 8th May 2012 01:37 in reply to "RE[2]: Sigh. Thom."
tanishaj Member since:
2010-12-22

Thinking about this... I know exactly why this is so idiotic.

If not even a judge knows if APIs are copyrightable or not, how should Google have known?


The world changes every day creating exciting new ways to bring harm to others. If everything had to be explicitly pre-codified, there would be a lot of unaddressed injustice in the world.

Most legal systems were designed to evolve. If somebody acts in an "unreasonable" way or performs an action that signicantly works against the common good then they can be judged to have acted illegally.

The US system strives to avoid creating new laws unless they are both a natural extension to precedent and necessary to support a verdict of infringement by a jury.

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[3]: Sigh. Thom.
by Drumhellar on Tue 8th May 2012 07:28 in reply to "RE[2]: Sigh. Thom."
Drumhellar Member since:
2005-07-12

It actually does make sense. The question of whether or not existing copyright law applies to APIs is a matter of interpreting the law. This is a task for a judge, and not a jury, so jury was instructed to assume that copying APIs is a copyright violation, so that way their only question was whether or not Google copied the APIs.

Now that the jury decided that Google did copy the APIs, it is up to the judge to decide whether or not APIs are actually covered by copyright. It is possible for the judge to rule that APIs are not eligible for copyright, in which case the jury's decision is irrelevant.

Or, perhaps there is existing precedent somewhere that indicates that APIs are copyrightable. While that seems unlikely at this point, if this were the case, should Google still be not liable because "they didn't know?" In this situation, I would argue no.

Finally, if there is no precedent, and the judge decides that APIs are copyrightable, should Google still be liable, even though the law is unclear? I would argue that, yes, they are. To do otherwise would deny Oracle protection under the law. While Google could argue that the law was unclear and they shouldn't be made to pay, Oracle can just as easily make the argument that the law was clear enough for them. You can't fault Oracle for taking the position if the judge rules in a way favorable to them. In this case, it is the fault of the legislators for failing to write clear laws or to adapt.
Again, while it seems unfair that Google should be made to pay for unclear legislation, it is arguably more unfair that Oracle shouldn't be protected.

Either way, Judge Alsup indicated that he may rule in Google's favor on the issue of whether or not APIs are copyrightable. From Ars Technica's writeup on the verdict: "But at the end of the trial, Alsup gave the lawyers a short talk indicating that he may see the API issue Google's way, comparing APIs to an idea for writing a guide book from San Francisco to Monterey." ( http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2012/05/jury-rules-google-v... )

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[2]: Sigh. Thom.
by tanishaj on Tue 8th May 2012 01:26 in reply to "RE: Sigh. Thom."
tanishaj Member since:
2010-12-22

I find a jury system insane enough even without nonsense like this, but alas. I'm glad we don't have this medieval nonsense in this country.


I do not live in the US but Thom's reaction is mostly one of ignorance here.

1) The judge will avoid creating new law unless he has to
2) The judge will only decide if APIs can be copyrighted if Google is found to have done that
3) The jury is assumed to be impartial, unbiased, and to be a source of common sense
4) The jury will decide if Google has wrongfully copied the API
5) In order to get a ruling from the jury, the judge has to tell them to assume it is illegal
6) The judge is assumed to be capable of forming an informed legal opinion on whether or not an activity is illegal
7) If Google is found to have infringed, the judge will decide if what they did was illegal
8) Instead of relying on the (possibly biased) decision of one man (the judge) when assessing guilt the US relies on the consensus of twelve people (selected to be unbiased)
9) When deciding complex legal technicalities, the US relies on the judgement of one highly educated and experienced person (the judge) instead of the purposely uneducated opinions of a group (the jury)
10) The whole thing is subject to appeal

It is cumbersome, but it actually makes a fair bit of sense to me.

Juries decide "did" or "did not".
Judges decide "legal" or "illegal"

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[3]: Sigh. Thom.
by Bill Shooter of Bul on Tue 8th May 2012 01:45 in reply to "RE[2]: Sigh. Thom."
Bill Shooter of Bul Member since:
2006-07-14

Yeah, I get what you are saying. Its often that cases that do adress unclear areas of the law are thrown out on an unrelated matter. Judges won't often make a ruling on an unclear part of the law unless they have to. It prevents arguing of hypothetical situations that will never happen in real life.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[3]: Sigh. Thom.
by terrakotta on Tue 8th May 2012 18:31 in reply to "RE[2]: Sigh. Thom."
terrakotta Member since:
2010-04-21

Why would the judge have to make a new law, if it's not illegal, it's legal. If there needs to be a new law, it's up to politicians to create them. These new laws are triggered by unfair results in trials, granted, you loose some effectivity there, but it avoids the result of the fairness of a trial to depend on one (or a few) mans'(mens') vision(s). A judge only has to decide whether or not it is illegal what has been done. That's where the common law, to me, (and to thom) seems so flawed. The seggregation of power is really not respected in common law and has very nasty unwanted sideeffects that are not negated by the advantage of a nimble judicial system.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: Sigh. Thom.
by AdamW on Tue 8th May 2012 07:14 in reply to "RE: Sigh. Thom."
AdamW Member since:
2005-07-06

Heh. Try to make out I have some kind of agenda. Cute, but not going to wash. Sorry, try a different number.

It's a simple matter of efficiency. The jury has to decide one thing. The judge has to decide another thing. Should they a) try to get both things decided as soon as possible or b) do one and then the other, even if it's perfectly possible to do both at once? I'm pretty sure you wouldn't _really_ prefer b). Trials take long enough already. Hell, it's just parallellization. (edit: the point that the judge didn't want to create 'new law' by ruling on whether APIs are copyrightable unless he actually _had_ to is also an important one - probably more important).

Trials are messy affairs where things like this happen all the time. If the media didn't jump on intermediate hearings and determinations like they were the Word of God, less of everyone's time would be wasted.

edit: as far as 'no-one's sure if it's illegal' goes, well, that happens under just about any code, really. It's incredibly difficult to write a law that requires absolutely no kind of interpretation. "Thou shalt not kill" - fine - but what about self-defence? What if you're insane? What if you didn't really mean to? Some kinds of interpretation are done by having the legislators traipse back in and refine the law, sure, but some are done by judges. In this case, the question of whether APIs constitute copyrightable material as defined in the U.S. copyright law is a question of interpretation of the relevant law, and it's a judge's job to perform that interpretation.

Edited 2012-05-08 07:18 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 3

RE[2]: Sigh. Thom.
by Athlander on Tue 8th May 2012 07:46 in reply to "RE: Sigh. Thom."
Athlander Member since:
2008-03-10

I find a jury system insane enough even without nonsense like this, but alas. I'm glad we don't have this medieval nonsense in this country.


Are you glad you have the inherently flawed Dutch system? Just wondering.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[3]: Sigh. Thom.
by MOS6510 on Tue 8th May 2012 17:53 in reply to "RE[2]: Sigh. Thom."
MOS6510 Member since:
2011-05-12

I was involved in 3 court cases, one included a charge of hacking, and 3 times I came out a winner so this Dutch person is quite happy with the system!

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: Sigh. Thom.
by AdamW on Tue 8th May 2012 15:33 in reply to "RE: Sigh. Thom."
AdamW Member since:
2005-07-06

Put separately - what's crawled up my butt lately is simply the declining quality of the site. Sorry, but that's the truth. I guess instead of snarking I should just take it out of my RSS feed, really. I don't recall the last time I found out something interesting from OS News.

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[3]: Sigh. Thom.
by MOS6510 on Tue 8th May 2012 17:50 in reply to "RE[2]: Sigh. Thom."
MOS6510 Member since:
2011-05-12

One could blame Thom for posting news (and adding a layer of bias) that can be found on x other sites, but on the other hand these articles seem to get a lot more attention from the readers than the non-mainstream ones.

Thus it seems Thom is providing what the majority of readers want, so in that regard he and his/this site are doing fine. For a job he doesn't get paid for he puts in a lot of time and effort.

It's not what you (and I) want to read and you (and I) long for the way this site was in the past, always hoping one day it will return to that state of joyfulness, but I my doubt is ever increasing.

Reply Parent Score: 2