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Oracle Google Programming The Courts Your Rights Online

Oracle and the End of Programming As We Know It 577

Posted by Soulskill
from the unbounded-can-of-worms dept.
An anonymous reader writes "An article at Dr. Dobb's looks into the consequences of a dangerous idea from Oracle during their legal battle with Google: 'that Google had violated Oracle's Java copyrights by reimplementing Java APIs in Android.' The issue is very much unsettled in the courts, but the judge in this case instructed the jury to assume the APIs were copyrightable. 'In a nutshell, if the jury sides with Oracle that the copyrights in the headers of every file of the Java source base apply specifically to the syntax of the APIs, then Oracle can extract payment and penalties from Google for having implemented those APIs without Oracle's blessing (or, in more specific terms, without a license). Should this come to pass, numerous products will suddenly find themselves on an uncertain legal standing in which the previously benign but now newly empowered copyright holders might assert punitive copyright claims. Chief among these would be any re-implementation of an existing language. So, Jython, IronPython, and PyPy for Python; JRuby, IronRuby, and Rubinius for Ruby; Mono for C# and VB; possibly C++ for C, GCC for C and C++ and Objective-C; and so forth. And of course, all the various browsers that use JavaScript might owe royalties to the acquirers of Netscape's intellectual property.'"
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Oracle and the End of Programming As We Know It

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  • Re:And with that (Score:1, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @01:53PM (#39860207)

    It's ok we can still code in stone: http://www.xkcd.com/505/

  • Licensing? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by webmosher (322834) <<webmosher> <at> <gmail.com>> on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @01:54PM (#39860221) Homepage

    Would this also possibly imply that a programmer needs to get a license to code in a specific language or to utilize a specific API? What is stopping Oracle from adding that to the JDK terms of use?

  • by sqlrob (173498) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @01:54PM (#39860225)

    Wouldn't that mean that SQL is also copyright, completely destroying Oracle's business?

  • Somewhat ironically (Score:5, Interesting)

    by squiggleslash (241428) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @01:56PM (#39860249) Homepage Journal

    The article claims Mono could be sued for copyright infringements, but actually Microsoft's public statements would count against any legal actions they could attempt against Miguel De Icaza.

    ...which means it's one of the few languages/APIs that could survive unscathed...

    ...which means Oracle's attempts to control Java could end up sending EVERYONE, including the GNU/Linux community who, thus far, have given .NET the cold shoulder, into the embrace of its earnest rival, destroying Java completely.

    If I had any concerns about .NET beyond the fact that Mono is pretty crappy and every Mono app ever written feels like it's being hosted under Wine, I'd be upset about this. But actually... from what I hear, C Sharp is a very nice programming language...

  • by lightknight (213164) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @01:59PM (#39860285) Homepage

    Could someone explain to me how what Google did with Java is different from what AMD did with the x86 instruction set?

  • Re:Other examples (Score:5, Interesting)

    by lightknight (213164) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @02:05PM (#39860391) Homepage

    Indeed. If they rule in favor of Oracle here, I have a strong feeling that recursive lawsuits (Java -> C++ -> C -> ASM) will eventually engulf the entire industry. What it will do to businesses is nothing compared to what it will do to universities. Imagine an assignment to implement an API, only to find out its violating someone's copyright. And all the SE / CS & friends people know that that's about 50% of what you do when studying for your major.

    The good news is that programmers will suddenly be worth that much more (as no one will want the liability of being one); the bad news is that even horrible programmers will suddenly cost a few million to employ, and require staff to ensure no ones agreements were being violated anywhere.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @02:06PM (#39860397)

    Well, IBM invented the language (SQL), so maybe they have a claim?

  • Re:Bunch of BUNK! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @02:23PM (#39860631)

    Header files are not necessarily copyrightable. It's a grey area. The interface is not copyrightable, and if the header file contains nothing but the interface, then it is also not copyrightable. If the header file contains things like documentation or inline function implementations, then it most certainly IS copyrightable. Because those things aren't necessary for coding to the interface.

    People need to understand the difference between an idea and the expression of the idea. Check this out for past jurisprudence [copyrightwebsite.com]. Oracle is arguing that Google copied enough of the structure of Java's API to be copyrightable. In other words, Google could have done it a different way, and still implemented the same interface, but they didn't. They kept the same structure. See the linked Whelan case for an example.

    Note this doesn't apply to something like Wine (the Dr Dobbs article is wrong), because it is perfectly OK to reproduce an interface. The wine developers didn't look at Window's code, and they aren't reproducing MSDN documentation. You need to get out of your head that Header files are never copyrightable, because they most certainly can contain copyrightable material.

  • Re:Bunch of BUNK! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by blinkin247 (971822) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @02:36PM (#39860789)

    The API copyright is but one part of the whole trial. Even after the jury comes back, there is still a patent issue and then damages portion (though this depends on how the jury decides in the prior two phases). And IIRC, the API copyright issue is but one part of the copyright complaints brought by Google (though I think most/all of the others were already tossed).

    Judges do things like this a lot. If the Oracle legal team presented what he thought to be a good case in favor of the copyrightability of the APIs, then he might've decided to let it go to the jury rather than let Oracle appeal. This way, Oracle can't say they lost because they couldn't present their argument, and the judge can use case law later on so that Google can't appeal because the jury had no clue what they were talking about.

    Finally, just because case law has set a precedent does not necessarily mean that the precedent is correct or that a future case can't lead to that precedent being overturned. This is in large part why our system exists as it does, with courts of increasing national authority that can step in and correct a lower court for decisions which should not have been rendered or for the abdication of due process.

    Understand, I certainly don't want Oracle to win this one, but I do understand the judge's thinking. This isn't an inefficiency of the judge, it's the judge exploiting his knowledge of the system he works in every day.

  • Re:Bunch of BUNK! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by slippyblade (962288) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @02:48PM (#39860929) Homepage

    Ah, Jury Nullification. Something that should happen far more than it does. Many juries are even told that they can't rule on the legality of the law in question - total bullshit, but that's the system we live in.

  • by KlomDark (6370) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @02:53PM (#39860993) Homepage Journal

    Be able to, sure... But they are more wise than that. Doing something asinine like that would kill them.

    Microsoft isn't headed by a megalomaniac like Ellison who is unable to see that other companies are getting REALLY paranoid about further use of Java. (We've discussed dumping it where I work.) And Oracle DB as well.

    Very strange to see the day when Microsoft is the 'nice guy'!

  • by locopuyo (1433631) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @03:01PM (#39861093) Homepage
    China is controlled by basically the same thing with a different name.
    The country you are looking for is South Korea. They had a technological and industrial boom and now have a high standard of living and are leaders in technology and they DGAF about copyright.
  • Re:And with that (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@n ... minus physicist> on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @05:38PM (#39862573) Homepage Journal

    Considering that the USS Enterprise (CVN-65... not NCC-1701) is currently scheduled for decommissioning, it might be interesting to see if that may in fact actually happen soon. Conspiracy nuts have suggested the Big E might sink in the Persian Gulf to start a war with Iran, just like what happened to the USS Maine with an earlier "international incident". I doubt that will happen, but sometimes like a broken clock these conspiracy nuts do get some things right.

  • by Grishnakh (216268) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @06:51PM (#39863221)

    There's a better solution: eliminate juries altogether. Many countries don't have them at all, such as Germany and Italy (which have "lay judges" instead, but these people have to meet educational minimums and get special training, and aren't the biggest morons off the street they could find like we have here in the USA). Spain has tried bringing in juries with bad results:
    "Jury trials have been very slowly introduced in Spain and have often produced less than desirable results. One of the first cases was that of Mikel Otegi who was tried in 1997 for the murder of two police officers. After a confused trial, five jury members of a total of nine voted to acquit and the judge ordered the accused set free. This verdict shocked the nation. Another alleged miscarriage of justice by jury trial was the Wanninkhof murder case."

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jury [wikipedia.org]

  • by hairyfeet (841228) <.bassbeast1968. .at. .gmail.com.> on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @10:59PM (#39864769) Journal

    Actually you would probably be better off if it WAS Microsoft, as from the sounds of those names they are venture capitalists, aka vultures. MSFT would be leery of an outright lawsuit going after Linux, after all they just got off the hook on antitrust and they sure as hell wouldn't want to have several governments looking at them closely again, but venture capitalists are gonna go for the money PERIOD. After all those corporate raiding types have a rep slightly below leeches anyway so they won't give a shit if there is cash involved.

    Of course there is even bigger problems than who owns the old Novell rights and that is this: If this stands you won't be able to do jack shit unless you are one of the "big boys' or working for them. after all they'll be quick to sign cross licensing agreements to keep this from becoming mutually assured destruction, same as even when they were tied up in a lawsuit neither Intel or AMD tried to rescind on their cross licensing of X86, but only the old guard with big bux will be able to play because without enough weight to get your own agreement you'd be sued to death. that would mean you could probably count the corps on two hands..Apple, Google, MSFT, Oracle, IBM, Amazon, it would be a "billionaire boys club" and nobody else would be invited. Scary thought. Any venture capitalists show up with copyrights i'm sure one of the big boys will buy them out to put more weapons in their warchest.

    Now does anybody doubt that I'm right when i said the west will be deader than Dixie thanks to all the "IP" minefields and the east will rise to take our place? The copyright and patent minefields are already so damned thick with many things you'd be better off building in China and if they put western 150+ year copyrights on APIs? Give it up chuck, software development here will grind to a halt. The same as the USA built off the "stolen IP" of the UK and Europe to build themselves into an empire during the industrial revolution so too will China and India do the same to us while our own IP laws bury us in lawsuits.

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