Linked by Thom Holwerda on Thu 12th May 2016 23:26 UTC
Android

During hours of unrelenting cross-examination today, Andy Rubin, Google's former Android chief, was on the stand in the Oracle v. Google trial defending how he built the mobile OS.

Rubin's testimony began yesterday. He's another one of the star witnesses in this second courtroom showdown between the two software giants in which Oracle has said it will seek up to $9 billion in damages for Google's use of certain Java APIs in the Android operating system. Since an appeals court decided that APIs can be copyrighted, Google's only remaining defense in this case is that its use of those APIs constitutes "fair use."

The "API's are copyrightable"-ruling is one of those rulings we will look back on decades from now and point to as "that's where it all went wrong", much like how we now look back upon disastrous rulings like Citizens United or the slew of bad rulings that legitimised software patents.

And we have the despicable Oracle to thank for that. As I've pointed out before, it's no coincidence that the three-pronged legal attack on Android - from Apple, Microsoft, and Oracle - all started at around the same time, and that Larry Ellison was a very close friend of Steve Jobs.

When all this stuff hits the fan even harder, you know who to thank.

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Comment by kittynipples
by kittynipples on Sun 15th May 2016 05:54 UTC
kittynipples
Member since:
2006-08-02

Wait a second. Aren't you a member of the "software should be protected by copyright, not patents" crowd? Well you can't have it both ways. The only relevant question now to be decided, as others have mentioned, is whether this is fair use to re-implement using the same function signatures, class definitions, etc.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Comment by kittynipples
by Alfman on Sun 15th May 2016 12:59 in reply to "Comment by kittynipples"
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

kittynipples,

Wait a second. Aren't you a member of the "software should be protected by copyright, not patents" crowd? Well you can't have it both ways.


Yes most software developers are against software patents and I suspect most are also against API copyrights for a similar reason: they prohibit our freedom to use our skills and abilities to independently build something on our own. We expect to have the right to spend our time, energy, and resources to implement something; to us it should not matter if it's compatible with something else or not since it's still our implementation. The very benefits of copyrighting APIs are outweighed by the costs of banning alternate implementations, which does little if anything to advance public interests. The software industry managed fine without API copyrights for many decades, on top of this it will be very prone to abuse.

A journalist is allowed to use what other journalists are writing and re-implement a "compatible" story without violating copyright. Using API copyrights to ban compatible implementations is an expansion of scope, there's nothing else like it in the copyright world.

Unlike a journalist, software developers have some technical constraints that are enforced by language compilers which mean that in order to be compatible they'll have to use the same list of functions prototypes. Unless banning competing compatible implementations of ideas/implementations is a goal of copyrights (which should be obvious that it never was), then APIs technically must be excluded from copyright. The appellate court either did not understand this, or those judges intentionally used their position to legislate from the bench. Either way it's disappointing that they failed to do their job.



The only relevant question now to be decided, as others have mentioned, is whether this is fair use to re-implement using the same function signatures, class definitions, etc.



So just as with patents, the validity of copyright "fair use" will have to be determined on a case by cases with no way for software developers to know ahead of time whether or not something is infringing until after they get to court and a judge rules on it. Many developers will exist in this state of unknown legality - excellent news for companies that seek profits by suing others in court, but very bad news for software developers in general.

Edited 2016-05-15 13:17 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 2

kittynipples Member since:
2006-08-02

So you are taking a position that a header file is not a creative work but the corresponding source file is. Clearly the court views them to both be creative in nature, and thus covered by current copyright law. Whether or not it is inconvenient for the software industry is probably immaterial.

Reply Parent Score: 2