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Google Developer Testifies That Java Memo Was Misinterpreted 201

Posted by timothy
from the not-what-I-meant dept.
benfrog writes with a piece that appeared in yesterday's Wall Street Journal about the in-progress legal battle between Oracle and Google over Java: "Ex-Sun and current Google employee Tim Lindholm testified that it was "not what he meant" when asked about the smoking gun email (included here (PDF)) that essentially said that Google needed to get a license for Java because all the alternatives 'suck[ed].' He went on in 'brief but tense testimony' to claim that his day-to-day involvement with Android was limited."
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Google Developer Testifies That Java Memo Was Misinterpreted

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  • Liar liar (Score:4, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward on Friday April 20, 2012 @08:54PM (#39752735)

    Pants on fire.

    But we're on Google's side so we'll let it go.

    • by Patch86 (1465427)

      It seems like it's been taken out of context to me.

      This guy (who is a developer, not a lawyer) says "We've looked at the alternatives, and don't like them. Therefore we need to go with Java, so let the legal bods know so they can't start negotiating". That doesn't imply he's informing them, as a knowledgeable legal source, that they'll need to go and get a license. It's clear from the context that this developer doesn't care much about the legal side, and is just talking about technical desirability.

      And tha

  • Oh come on (Score:5, Insightful)

    by msobkow (48369) on Friday April 20, 2012 @09:14PM (#39752847) Homepage Journal

    If he didn't mean they should negotiate a Java license with Sun, why did he say:

    ...we need to negotiate a license for Java under the terms we need.

    How you could possibly interpret that statement as meaning anything other than "we need to negotiate a license" is beyond me. I may not like Oracle's aggressiveness in pursuing the issue, but I can't read this email as being anything other than an acknowledgement that Google needs a license.

    Now don't get me wrong. Google could have later used the GPL version of Java safely, but they didn't have that option back then. Plus there's the question of whether you're allowed to use pieces of a GPL piece of software, such as the Dalvik compiler and core runtime with a Dalvik-compiled copy of the Java code for it's libraries and packages.

    I would contend that they're well within the GPL, provided that the Dalvik code was also released under the GPL. However, if the Dalvik core isn't under GPL, then they've got the issue of mixing GPL and non-GPL code to muddy the waters, and maybe that's the angle Oracle is playing.

    • Re:Oh come on (Score:5, Insightful)

      by pla (258480) on Friday April 20, 2012 @09:28PM (#39752921) Journal
      How you could possibly interpret that statement as meaning anything other than "we need to negotiate a license" is beyond me.

      "We need to buy shiny toy X" doesn't always, or (IMO) even usually, mean "we've already chewed the fingers off it, guess we need to pay for it now".
    • No matter what he meant, it shouldn't matter. Oracle is trying to use the e-mail to prove "Google knew ahead of time they were in the wrong!" when in fact this e-mail was written AFTER Oracle bought Sun and was murmuring about lawsuits. It's also an unsent draft of an e-mail written by a Google employee who wasn't working on Android! Wow!

      I guess if I want to screw over my company in the future, I know how to do it now... Incriminating e-mail drafts!

      • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

        by cryptoluddite (658517)

        Oracle is trying to use the e-mail to prove

        There are literally shittons of emails talking about Google needing a license, trying to get a license, not doing clean-room because they were confident they would get a license, etc. To show it wasn't clean-room Oracle doesn't even have to show anything was copied, Google up and said it. 'Should we do this clean-room?' 'No, it'll be fine'.

        Google now needs to prove to a jury not just that they didn't actually need a license, but also that all their top execs and engineers were wrong. If say in a police i

        • If say in a police interrogation you admit to doing the crime a jury will still convict you even if there is absolute proof that you didn't do it.

          Are you talking about places like Russia & Zimbabwe, or did you just get your JD from DeVry?

        • by AmiMoJo (196126)

          If say in a police interrogation you admit to doing the crime a jury will still convict you even if there is absolute proof that you didn't do it.

          Of course they won't, assuming your defence is half competent. The law isn't about who said what, it is about the facts of the case. If Google don't need a license then even if they thought they did it doesn't matter, the simple fact is that one is not required and they owe Oracle nothing.

        • by JDG1980 (2438906)

          If say in a police interrogation you admit to doing the crime a jury will still convict you even if there is absolute proof that you didn't do it. Human nature says if you admitted to it then you did it

          The actual evidence, on the other hand, indicates that it is remarkably easy for the police to get people to confess to things they didn't do. Much of what we think of as "common sense" or "human nature" is complete BS.

    • Re:Oh come on (Score:5, Interesting)

      by dgatwood (11270) on Friday April 20, 2012 @09:52PM (#39753055) Journal

      If he didn't mean they should negotiate a Java license with Sun, why did he say:

      It seems likely that he meant that they should negotiate with Sun for a license. However, the most likely meaning of such a statement (when spoken or written by an engineer) is that it would be easier to get a quality product out the door in a timely manner if they licensed Java from Sun than if they wrote their own implementation, and thus, from an engineering perspective, they needed to do so. The powers that be chose to rewrite it instead of buying a license, therefore no license was needed from either a legal or a technical perspective. It is therefore downright silly to interpret such a statement from an engineer as implying that a license was legally necessary.

    • He ain't a lawyer (Score:5, Informative)

      by sirwired (27582) on Friday April 20, 2012 @10:07PM (#39753145)

      I read it as: Whatever kind of license we need to run Android, we should get one. As somebody who was not, himself, actually involved in any kind of licensing negotiations, laws, etc., he didn't have the least flipping clue WHAT that might entail.

      Imagine my boss seeing emacs for the first time and saying "Holy $hit! this emacs is awesome! SirWired, go buy whatever we need to run it." That isn't any kind of admission that running emacs requires paying somebody; just a statement that he wants it.

      Google's position is that no license from Sun was in fact needed, and that Eric Lindstrom was not the person that had anything to do with that determination

    • In that case you just license Dalvik as GPL. It's not like it doesn't work for the kernel or GCC and I hardly see Dalvik as any different.
      • by julesh (229690)

        Do that and you lose support from Samsung and HTC, who differentiate their products by using heavily customised runtimes that they do not release source code for.

    • by ArsonSmith (13997)

      It's like when your wife says, "We need to get new curtains in the living room." You say, "what's wrong with the ones we have?" She says, "They suck."

      • She says, "They suck."

        And then you say, "Perhaps if you did, I'd be happy to buy you some new curtains!".

    • Re:Oh come on (Score:5, Informative)

      by BillX (307153) on Saturday April 21, 2012 @01:16AM (#39753957) Homepage

      Looking at the various email threads, it reads to me like Google decided a Java-compatible platform was their best option, and licensing one from Sun (they already had one, called Java) was the easiest path to getting the job done. Another email in the exhibit mentions the possibility of clean-rooming their own Java-compatible platform, but basically saying it would be a giant PITA and not cost-effective vs. just licensing Sun's existing one. I don't see the Java license discussions as construing "proof of knowledge of infringement" (etc.), or belief that it was the only legal path forward, only that at least one guy believed it was the easiest path forward.

    • by arkhan_jg (618674)

      Dalvik is released under the Apache licence, as it's partly based upon Apache Harmony - a free Java implementation. Note, Harmony wasn't an 'official' java implementation at the time, as it couldn't use the TCK testing kit (that showed compliance with the java spec) under licence terms that didn't conflict with the apache licence - specifically, field of use restrictions. Sun stonewalled, as they wanted to have their own GPL-licenced java implementation up and running for linux before working with the Apac

    • Re:Oh come on (Score:5, Insightful)

      by julesh (229690) on Saturday April 21, 2012 @05:12AM (#39754563)

      How you could possibly interpret that statement as meaning anything other than "we need to negotiate a license" is beyond me. I may not like Oracle's aggressiveness in pursuing the issue, but I can't read this email as being anything other than an acknowledgement that Google needs a license.

      Read the context prior to that. At the point that email was sent, Google's plan was to use the name Java in their marketing. Java was Sun's trademark, so of course they would have needed to licence it.

      They decided not to, however, instead hiding the connections between Android and Java in developer-oriented documentation, and being careful never to claim that Android implements Java in any way (it implements a system that is compatible with programs for the Java programming language, or some other such nonsense, that is always careful not to suggest any Sun/Oracle endorsement of the system).

    • How you could possibly interpret that statement as meaning anything other than "we need to negotiate a license" is beyond me. I may not like Oracle's aggressiveness in pursuing the issue, but I can't read this email as being anything other than an acknowledgement that Google needs a license.

      Because of the statement "under the terms we need." As far as I know Java licensing is complicated. If you are writing some small stuff you intend to open source, you are probably not going to need any license. When asked about it, Larry Ellison didn't know which reflects that it's not a simple thing. Maybe he should have phrased it better to say "Let's use Java. See if we need licensing for our purposes."

    • by dissy (172727)

      How you could possibly interpret that statement as meaning anything other than "we need to negotiate a license" is beyond me

      I had that situation at work actually. Probably not the same situation as Google, but the same situation as you point out.

      We needed a new Apache server install, more or less dedicated to a web-app and set of server extensions that I didn't want to put on any existing Apache install.
      While discussing this with a co-worker (who is primarily a windows admin only), he suggested we simply purchase another Windows 2003 server to install as a VM, and put Apache on that.

      Instead, I went ahead and installed Debian Li

  • Fairly plausible (Score:5, Insightful)

    by pla (258480) on Friday April 20, 2012 @09:25PM (#39752913) Journal
    Reading the email linked by the FP, I would call his claim fairly plausible - I wouldn't take him to have meant "gee, we've infringed the hell out of it, we need to get legal ASAP", but rather "Can you please just buy the best option for us so we can move on and stop the games?"

    Honestly, something like that exact discussion comes up on a monthly basis where I work, and some shyster could probably find examples of me saying substantially the same thing in my emails. And I don't give two shakes of a rat's ass about whether or not my employer wants to stay legal on the licensing side - If they don't mind me using a copy of Windows registered to Razor1911, no skin off my back (and hell, good ammo for me if things get ugly).
    • Never the less I think google is down one employee soon...
  • Nice foresight (Score:5, Informative)

    by ghn (2469034) on Friday April 20, 2012 @09:33PM (#39752953)
    On Fri, Feb 20, 2009 at 7:59AM, Dave Sobota wrote:

    2. Can you spell out the risk of us relying on Sun for support in more detail? I thought Java was largely opensourced anyway -- so I don't understand why we'd be so worried if Sun went bankrupt, was sold to an unfriendly company or just decided to act erratically with respect to Java. Is it that we are concerned about the parts that are not opensourced (e.g., test suite) --that Sun might jack up the license fees or just stop licensing those altogether?

    p29 of the exhibit

  • by gstrickler (920733) on Friday April 20, 2012 @09:35PM (#39752963)

    • Google would like to work with Sun to conceive of and agree to a license that enables Google to release to the Open Source community, under a license of it's own choosing, it's internally developed CLDC based JVM. Google would like to achieve this goal with Sun's blessing and cooperation.
    • Google does not foresee the necessity to license or redistribute any software from Sun.
    • Google desires to be able to call the resulting work Java.

    Under that last point, they would definitely need a license from Sun, as "Java" was a registered trademark from Sun. MS and Sun had already been through that battle. If you want to call it Java, you needed permission from Sun. That's very different from claiming you need a license to make a Java compatible language. No smoking gun here.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by ghn (2469034)
      But they could not work out an agreement with sun to obtain a licence with the terms and price tag they needed. So they did not call their implementation 'java', thus, not infringing on the trademark.
      The trial is about patent infringement, not trademarks..
      • by symbolset (646467) * on Friday April 20, 2012 @09:50PM (#39753037) Journal

        It's about both patent and copyright. They're down to only one patent though. The actual copyright is minimal, so Oracle's trying to make the silly argument that they have a copyright on the API. Not only is such a thing impossible, but they can't produce a "work" that's infringed nor an exemplar of a reproduction.

        I'm going to agree with the grandparent. One employee urging the company buy something to solve a certain problem is not proof the company stole it. If the company decides to achieve its goals in a different way strategically because the object of their desire is not for sale (which is the case here) this also doesn't mean that they stole it.

        • by rtb61 (674572)

          That claim by Oracle means they can sue each and every developer using Java. Major alarm bells should be going off here, Java is now a poisoned language, whilst Google should be able to fight off the battle how many other companies would be destroyed by the cash fight in court. Time to give Java the boot and go elsewhere Ruby for example.

        • What's the remaining patent?

      • First, the point is that this email isn't a "smoking gun". Not by a long stretch.

        The patent claims have narrowed significantly [arstechnica.com], with only 2 of the original 7 patents remaining, and one of those is on shaky ground. Most of the remaining claims are about copyright, not patent. So while there are still patents involved, it's largely about copyright at this point.

        See Groklaw [groklaw.net] if you need to familiarize yourself with other facts of the case.

  • by PaddyM (45763) on Friday April 20, 2012 @09:36PM (#39752969) Homepage

    From the article:

    "This week Larry Page could not recall who Lindholm was"

    Hey Larry, let me google that for you:
    http://lmgtfy.com/?q=tim+lindholm [lmgtfy.com]

  • by larry bagina (561269) on Friday April 20, 2012 @09:59PM (#39753099) Journal

    You know, go down to the DMV and get a driver's license so android could drive one of those google cars. In the country Java (note the capitalization), not for the JAVA SDK.

  • Erm (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ShooterNeo (555040) on Friday April 20, 2012 @10:31PM (#39753261)

    NOTHING is free. Everything takes time and money to create. Now, for various reasons, people give software away...but this is a massive corporation producing software worth billions of dollars, and a key part of it depends on software that was developed at a cost of millions of dollars.

    So a reasonable few million bucks to Oracle for their trouble seems fair.

    • by isorox (205688)

      NOTHING is free. Everything takes time and money to create. Now, for various reasons, people give software away...but this is a massive corporation producing software worth billions of dollars, and a key part of it depends on software that was developed at a cost of millions of dollars.

      So a reasonable few million bucks to Oracle for their trouble seems fair.

      Is the English Language free?

    • by Ecuador (740021)

      On the one hand, a, hmm, say, 5 million award to Oracle would seem fair, given the fact that Oracle is such a "nice company" with such a "nice CEO".
      On the other hand, a huge award that gives Android trouble might finally make some people try out better and completely open alternatives like the MeeGo Harmattan OS that Nokia abandoned and pick that up...
      Yes, I am daydreaming again.

  • From the article, we have the best post I've ever seen about this trial:

    the case falls into a murky area where simple, clear sensible law should exist. When that happens, the lawyers are the biggest winners.

    Remember that if you are one of those people who feel it is 100% certain that Google will win (or lose).

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