Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 31st May 2012 21:41 UTC
Legal And thus, it ends. Despite a never-ending stream of doom and gloom from Oracle/Microsoft-funded 'pundits' regarding Google and Android (six hundred billion trillion gazillion eurodollars in damages!!1!), judge Alsup has just squashed all of Oracle's chances with a ruling that is good news for those of us who truly care about this wonderful industry: APIs are not copyrightable. Alsup: "To accept Oracle's claim would be to allow anyone to copyright one version of code to carry out a system of commands and thereby bar all others from writing their own different versions to carry out all or part of the same commands. No holding has ever endorsed such a sweeping proposition." Supreme Court, Ellison?
Thread beginning with comment 520312
To read all comments associated with this story, please click here.
Overstating the case
by vaette on Fri 1st Jun 2012 06:40 UTC
vaette
Member since:
2008-08-09

Another a bit overblown headline, Oracles case is indeed over, but APIs remain perfectly copyrightable if they are a sufficiently complex and creative work, all Alsup has decided is:

"This order does not hold that Java API packages are free for all to use without license. It does not hold that the structure, sequence and organization of all computer programs may be stolen. Rather, it holds on the specific facts of this case, the particular elements replicated by Google were free for all to use under the Copyright Act."

To link to another comment where I summarized my complaint about this recurring misunderstanding about API copyrightability: http://www.osnews.com/permalink?518336

It is like with all copyight: Big, complex and creative works are copyrightable, and that is a high bar to reach for APIs, but it is clearly possible.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Overstating the case
by lemur2 on Fri 1st Jun 2012 07:35 in reply to "Overstating the case"
lemur2 Member since:
2007-02-17

Another a bit overblown headline, Oracles case is indeed over, but APIs remain perfectly copyrightable if they are a sufficiently complex and creative work, all Alsup has decided is:

"This order does not hold that Java API packages are free for all to use without license. It does not hold that the structure, sequence and organization of all computer programs may be stolen. Rather, it holds on the specific facts of this case, the particular elements replicated by Google were free for all to use under the Copyright Act."

To link to another comment where I summarized my complaint about this recurring misunderstanding about API copyrightability: http://www.osnews.com/permalink?518336

It is like with all copyight: Big, complex and creative works are copyrightable, and that is a high bar to reach for APIs, but it is clearly possible.


Au contraire, this decision is quite important. It means that as long as a project writes its own actual implementation then using someone else's API (for reasons of compatibility and interoperability) is perfectly OK under copyright law.

This means that FOSS projects which re-implement functionality to a common API are perfectly fine. FOSS projects such as Samba, Wine, gnash, VBA for LibreOffice and Linux hardware drivers etc can't be attacked for copyright violations.

Edited 2012-06-01 07:37 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 6

RE[2]: Overstating the case
by vaette on Fri 1st Jun 2012 09:17 in reply to "RE: Overstating the case"
vaette Member since:
2008-08-09

Not really the case though, despite the quote that Thom picked for the blurb here. Alsup is very clear that Google is in the clear due to their use of the APIs being limited (37 classes out of hundreds) and the relatively low complexity of the classes concerned. Implicit (though not in a legal sense of course) in the decision is that very broad copying of APIs, or copying of APIs that are more complex and specific to a task, is not really allowed.

It is an interesting question for the future where the line is drawn. I find Alsups conclusions here to be very reasonable (this case was pretty limited), but I also agree that there are limits. Hugely complex software that is mostly concerned with defining complex interfaces does need a bit of protection, and this includes GPL software needing it to control commercial rip-offs. For example it seems reasonable that no one should be able to write a non-GPL gcc back-end, since the interface in question, GIMPLE, is monstrously complex and very tied to the functionality of gcc (that is, a lot of gcc cleverness is embodied in the interface itself).

Reply Parent Score: 2

RE[2]: Overstating the case
by saynte on Fri 1st Jun 2012 09:23 in reply to "RE: Overstating the case"
saynte Member since:
2007-12-10

No, I'm afraid not. The grandparent poster has it correct, further Judge Alsop has stated:


So long as the specific code used to implement a method is different, anyone is free under the Copyright Act to write his or her own code to carry out exactly the same function or specification of any methods used in the Java API,


His ruling was very narrow, specific to the Java API. I think for a judge this is a safer path, less chance for it to be overturned later I suppose.

Reply Parent Score: 5