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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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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @02:50PM (#39860193)

    We realize that we can all use Perl free of charge.

    • by masternerdguy (2468142) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @02:55PM (#39860231)
      Languages are the least of our worries. Projects like wine will become downright illegal.
      • by TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @03:04PM (#39860373) Journal

        Not just WINE. The Open Group, for example, would be able to charge royalties for any UNIX-like system implementing the APIs described in POSIX and the Single UNIX Specification. AT&T might still own copyrights on the original UNIX and C library APIs (since they were not thought to be copyrightable, they would probably not have been transferred, but if they were then Novell may own them), so everyone who implements basic C stuff like printf() would be liable.

        It actually gets worse than even that. If an API is copyrightable, then all of the law related to derived works also applies. That means that whoever copyrighted the first interface for an ordered collection can count any subsequent API that appears to be inspired by it as a derived work. Do you use subscripting for array indexing? Do you have an API for storing a key-value pair in an keyed collection? You probably owe someone money...

        • by gbjbaanb (229885) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @03:19PM (#39860563)

          oh dear. Alan Kay is going to be very, very rich indeed.

          I doubt it's going to be that bad, unless you copy the entire API as-is, can't you get away with a fair-use defence?

          Or the only languages that will matter are those released under the GPL.

          Or maybe Google could just claim Dalvik was a parody of Java :)

          • by PaladinAlpha (645879) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @04:13PM (#39861245)

            That's actually one of Google's defenses. They didn't copy the entire Java API, just a portion of it. So no, if the ruling is in Oracle's favor (which is unlikely but not impossible), then you can't get away with fair-use.

            This is really, really scary for open source and GNU-like projects -- it's an attempt by a corporation to define copyright law in a way that lets big business completely shut down the academic "free exchange" culture once and for all.

            This is serious, guys.

            • More hyperbole (Score:5, Informative)

              by DragonWriter (970822) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @05:21PM (#39861979)

              That's actually one of Google's defenses. They didn't copy the entire Java API, just a portion of it. So no, if the ruling is in Oracle's favor (which is unlikely but not impossible), then you can't get away with fair-use.

              There are three different questions that have to be resolved in Oracle's favor for a verdict in Oracle's favor on this point:
              1. (legal) Are the APIs subject to copyright protection,
              2. (factual) Did Google infringe the exclusive rights of Oracle as copyright holder of the APIs,
              3. (factual) Was Google's infringement outside the scope of the exception carved out of the exclusive rights under fair use.

              Each logically only requires a response if the preceding question is answered in the affirmative. #2 is presented to the jury as a question they must answer as if #1 were answered in the affirmative, though the court has not ruled on it; #3 is presented to the jury as a question they must answer if and only if they answer yes to #2.

              A ruling in Oracle's favor on the legal issue (#1) would not obviously not mean fair use was not available as a defense. Nor, obviously, would a finding of fact in Oracle's favor on #2.

              But even a verdict in Oracle's favor (meaning that all three issues were resolved in Oracle's favor) wouldn't mean that fair use wasn't available, it would just mean that the jury in this particular case didn't find Google's particular use of Oracle's copyright-protected APIs was fair use. Fact findings are not, however, precedential or binding on future triers of fact, only legal rulings are. (And the only legal ruling related to the availability of fair use in this case is that, at a minimum, it is an available defense, because if it wasn't, question #3 wouldn't be put to the jury at all, or would be put to the jury with the same restrictions as #2 in that it was waiting on a legal ruling on the applicability of the defense.)

              • Re:More hyperbole (Score:5, Insightful)

                by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@n e t z ero.net> on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @06:11PM (#39862365) Homepage Journal

                It was a legal case just like this which gave us the whole concept of software patents, so the concern is just as legitimate. Software patents were originally just as limited, and indeed the original judicial rulings on software patents were even more restricted than is being proposed here for API copyright.

                Heck, I would be much more in favor of having an API patented rather than copyrighted, as the concept of life + 70 year copyrights implies a much longer duration over "intellectual property claims" for this kind of activity. At least a patented API would eventually enter the public domain in my lifetime.

              • by ATMAvatar (648864) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @10:16PM (#39864233) Journal
                It is scary that a case involving complicated legal and technical issues is being decided by a group of people who couldn't even get themselves out of jury duty.
            • by Anonymous Brave Guy (457657) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @05:49PM (#39862203)

              This is serious, guys.

              It's really not, for precisely the reasons you gave.

              If this case were to go in Oracle's favour and if it were then allowed to set a precedent, the US software industry would be seriously damaged by legal infighting for a years to come. Even if a few large businesses on the scale of Google and Oracle could survive, in the same way that they play the patent pooling game to neutralise that threat from other big business while still screwing small businesses, innovation would die almost overnight and the next big software businesses would all be based outside the US. As the rest of the world looked on, bemused by the litigious culture of US business finally imploding, the total US economy would take a noticeable hit, Silicon Valley would become a historical footnote as investors fled to tech hubs in other jurisdictions, etc.

              And so, if this were allowed to stand, it would suck for Google for about ten minutes, and then lobbyists backed by more money than has been printed in the history of humanity would descend on Washington and buy legislation to trump the court case and fix the problem.

              • by zidium (2550286) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @07:01PM (#39862765) Homepage

                Not in the world of the World Trade Organization!!

                By international treaty and law, all copyrights are honored worldwide. Therefore, what is copyrighted in the U.S. is also copyrighted in Europe immediately, and vice versa (and Asia, too, technically all the GATT countries, which is pretty much everybody worth conducting business with).

                So, unless you want to undo almost a century of globalization, this will affect legal software worldwide, unless and until copyright laws can be amended to more sane terms.

                Regardless, this has "rush to the Supreme Court" smeared all over it.

        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @03:44PM (#39860891)

          Not just WINE. The Open Group, for example, would be able to charge royalties for any UNIX-like system implementing the APIs described in POSIX and the Single UNIX Specification. AT&T might still own copyrights on the original UNIX and C library APIs (since they were not thought to be copyrightable, they would probably not have been transferred, but if they were then Novell may own them), so everyone who implements basic C stuff like printf() would be liable.

          This is what the SCO lawsuit was about. It's basically over (except that every time someone announces an end, there is another re-file of some sort)... but even groklaw [groklaw.net] has moved on to Oracle v. Google.

          Also, Caldera (which I think was a previous incarnation of SCO) released versions of Unix developed by AT&T prior to System III and System V as open source. [groklaw.net]

          It actually gets worse than even that. If an API is copyrightable, then all of the law related to derived works also applies. That means that whoever copyrighted the first interface for an ordered collection can count any subsequent API that appears to be inspired by it as a derived work. Do you use subscripting for array indexing? Do you have an API for storing a key-value pair in an keyed collection? You probably owe someone money...

          No. Patents, not copyrights, can be used to claim ownership of ideas. Copyrights are used to claim ownership of specific, concrete realization of ideas, covering the "look and feel" and surface aspects rather than essential mechanisms.

          • Nope (Score:5, Informative)

            by gr8_phk (621180) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @04:00PM (#39861073)

            Copyrights are used to claim ownership of specific, concrete realization of ideas, covering the "look and feel" and surface aspects rather than essential mechanisms.

            Look and feel of an application is not copyrightable. Microsoft fought apple over this a long time ago and won. Apple had claimed Windows infringed the look and feel of Mac OS. That precedent is one really good thing MS has done for the world.

            • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

              by Anonymous Coward

              This is incorrect. MSFT lost, and paid a license fee for Windows 1.0 to Apple. When MSFT tried again with Windows 2.0, Apple sued again but the court ruled that the previous license covered the similarities, so MSFT won that round.

      • by dubbreak (623656) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @03:27PM (#39860671)

        Languages are the least of our worries. Projects like wine will become downright illegal in the US.

        FTFY. If this dangerous precedent is set it is set in the US I'm sure some of the weaker minded countries will follow suit, but many will recognize the idiocy of this.

        What if my public API has something like Save()? Did I violate the first person to copyright that interface name? Do I now need to name every function MyTrademarkNameSave()?

        Also if APIs are copyrightable I'm certain that much of the Java API was already falls under copyright to previous languages.

        • by hoggoth (414195) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @03:41PM (#39860861) Journal

          This is a Darwinian process. The US is making itself so utterly uncompetitive with no production no manufacturing no products just lawsuits. Any country with the strength to ignore our bullshit will be so much more productive than the US and its thralls that they will come to dominate us economically and eventually militarily.

          At this point it appears that China is the only country that isn't controlled by the same multinational corporations that govern the US, and has any chance of not becoming part of the same game.

        • by mlts (1038732) *

          What would happen is what happened with the crypto industry in the 1990s, due to ITAR: It moved elsewhere. SSL? Download the module from Germany. PGP? Grab pgpi from your favorite place in Canada.

          A more concrete example is how the EPA phased in pollution laws so fast that no US steel maker could survive... Steel is still being made, but it just comes from abroad.

          I'm sure judges are not looking at unintended consequences here... it just means that more coding houses get made offshore, and people buy the

          • by Teancum (67324) <robert_horning@n e t z ero.net> on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @06:29PM (#39862477) Homepage Journal

            Steel is no longer made in America mainly because of aggressive "dumping" of steel from foreign sources, where steel was sold in America for a price cheaper than it could even be shipped. When steel makers basically had to give away their product in order to remain competitive, it was no wonder that they ended up just closing up shop instead. This was due to insane trade laws that basically threw American manufacturers under the bus on the goal for global "free trade" ideals.

            You could use almost any consumer product in the same category though. America at one point produced most of the televisions, nearly 100% of integrated circuits, and a huge number of consumer electronics in general. None of those are made in America any more, at least in any significant quantities that matter in global markets.

  • by lightknight (213164) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @02:51PM (#39860197) Homepage

    And with that, the internet fell, and mankind returned to the stone age.

    • Re:And with that (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Edsj (1972476) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @03:06PM (#39860401)

      And with that, the internet fell, and mankind returned to the stone age.

      The rest of the world will continue its course while lawyers battle against each other in US.

      US is giving a nice warning for those who want to invest in their country: "What a nice product you have, it will be a shame if someone sue you for *insert patent/copyright* infringement".

      • What a nice economy you have there, it would be a shame if someone were to park a carrier battle group off your largest port, closing it for a year or two. Now be a good lapdog and sign the patent treaty.

      • Re:And with that (Score:5, Insightful)

        by shiftless (410350) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @04:55PM (#39861681) Homepage

        Exactly. This sort of thing doesn't happen in a vacuum; it has a real and tangible negative effect on the economy. These leeches have built up such a web of institutionalized parasitism dragging the whole economy down, which is exactly why we remain in this same mess today with everyone struggling just to get by. We the People need the chains unclasped from our ankles so that we can fulfill our potential.

      • The problem is that, no matter what you do, practically any online presence will give them some justification to say you're under their jurisdiction.

    • Re:And with that (Score:5, Informative)

      by whoever57 (658626) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @03:24PM (#39860647) Journal

      And with that, the internet fell, and mankind returned to the stone age.

      Except that it did not, at least not yet.

      The article's author fails to understand what is going on here. The judge has said that he will decide if API's are copyrightable, but he has punted the decision. Only if the jury finds that there was copyright infringement relating to the APIs will the judge actually decide that issue.

      Since the judge has not made the decision about APIs and that it is his decision, not the jury's, the only sensible approach is to have the jury assume that API's are copyrightable.

      • by rthille (8526)

        Seems a bit non-sensical to me: "You, spend the next several weeks doing a bunch of work based on an assumption that I may invalidate, but only after you are done."

        • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @03:53PM (#39860997)

          Sounds like every set of business requirements I've ever received.

        • Seems a bit non-sensical to me: "You, spend the next several weeks doing a bunch of work based on an assumption that I may invalidate, but only after you are done."

          Since the jury will have ruled on the premise that the APIs are protected by copyright, and since whatever the judge rules on the legal question is bound to appealed by one side or the other, the question of fact will have been resolved by the jury if it turns out to be relevant either based on the trial judges decision or based on an appellate d

        • Re:And with that (Score:5, Insightful)

          by gnasher719 (869701) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @05:02PM (#39861769)

          Seems a bit non-sensical to me: "You, spend the next several weeks doing a bunch of work based on an assumption that I may invalidate, but only after you are done."

          Absolutely not. Considering how often Slashdot posters claim that judges are stupid, you show a distinct lack of logic.

          The judge decides matters of law. Whether an API is protected by copyright or not is a matter of law and will be decided by the judge. The jury decides matters of fact. Whether Google copied the API or not is a matter of fact, to be decided by the jury. Whether Google should be convicted is a combination of both. The judge just tells the jury not to waste their time thinking about matters of law, and not let their opinion about the law influence their decision.

          In C-style languages, what the judge is doing can be represented using the logical and operator. Nobody complains about that one.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by old dr omr (1289450)

      And with that, the internet fell, and mankind returned to the stone age.

      Except of course for PirateBay.

  • by Jeng (926980) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @02:52PM (#39860201)

    M.A.D. strategies don't work too well when one side is perfectly fine with destruction.

  • Licensing? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by webmosher (322834) <webmosher@gCOUGARmail.com minus cat> on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @02:54PM (#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?

    • What is stopping Oracle from adding that to the JDK terms of use?

      Nothing, but then I don't have to use the JDK in any way to provide my own implementation of their APIs.

  • by sqlrob (173498) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @02:54PM (#39860225)

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

    • by lightknight (213164) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @02:59PM (#39860285) Homepage

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

      • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @03:01PM (#39860317)

        AMD has a license from Intel to implement the x86 ISA. They didn't when they started, but Intel let them buy a license to try to avoid anti-trust litigation.

      • by Jeng (926980) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @03:18PM (#39860557)

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

        In February 1982, AMD signed a contract with Intel, becoming a licensed second-source manufacturer of 8086 and 8088 processors. IBM wanted to use the Intel 8088 in its IBM PC, but IBM's policy at the time was to require at least two sources for its chips. AMD later produced the Am286 under the same arrangement, but Intel canceled the agreement in 1986 and refused to convey technical details of the i386 part. AMD challenged Intel's decision to cancel the agreement and won in arbitration, but Intel disputed this decision. A long legal dispute followed, ending in 1994 when the Supreme Court of California sided with AMD. Subsequent legal disputes centered on whether AMD had legal rights to use derivatives of Intel's microcode. In the face of uncertainty, AMD was forced to develop clean room designed versions of Intel code.

        In 1991, AMD released the Am386, its clone of the Intel 386 processor. It took less than a year for the company to sell a million units. Later, the Am486 was used by a number of large original equipment manufacturers, including Compaq, and proved popular. Another Am486-based product, the Am5x86, continued AMD's success as a low-price alternative. However, as product cycles shortened in the PC industry, the process of reverse engineering Intel's products became an ever less viable strategy for AMD.

    • by djdanlib (732853)

      That's an interesting thought... Who owns SQL, though?

  • And this is why... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @02:55PM (#39860233)

    copyrighting code at all is a slippery slope that leads to nothing but hair-splitting. Even if the judge throws that particular claim out, then what? It's legal to copy the top-level calls of someone's API, but illegal to make underlying code that too closely resembles the original? It seems like any line that gets drawn here is going to be stupid and arbitrary, of the form "you are legally allowed to copy/re-implement a certain percentage of a copyrighted work, but no more than that percentage!"

    Then you have a developer community whose primary incentive is to reinvent the wheel, not to develop new innovations on already-proven technology.

  • by GodfatherofSoul (174979) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @02:56PM (#39860241)

    Oh wait, was this a "best use of exaggeration" contest?

  • Bunch of BUNK! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Svartalf (2997) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @02:56PM (#39860245) Homepage

    The Judge is wrong.

    Past jurisprudence (and a lot of it, mind...) has held that things that are purely functional are **NOT** Copyrightable.

    This includes:
    Build Scripts in general.
    Header Files.

    It's appealable and is VERY likely to be overturned on appeal.

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

      by OddJobBob (1965628) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @03:03PM (#39860345)

      It has already been through the courts when Green Hills copied the Threadx API from Express Logic, Green Hills won.

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

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @03:11PM (#39860457)

      The judge told the jury to ASSUME that it is copyrightable and that the actual choice of copyrightability was his decision to make. This makes it so that appeals court will have an easier time based off his decision by not having to bring the jury back. He has not made that decision yet.

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

        by Daniel_Staal (609844) <DStaal@usa.net> on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @03:21PM (#39860615)

        Oh, for mod points.

        This. The judge basically said 'The question of whether copyright law can apply at all in this situation is a legal one, and needs to be handled by someone who has studied the law. That's me. Your job is to decide if the law was violated. So, assume the law exists, while I go research.' The judge can still come back and say the law doesn't apply at all, so it doesn't matter what the jury says, but in the meantime the jury doesn't have to be confused by arguments over whether the law applies.

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

      by MBCook (132727) <foobarsoft@foobarsoft.com> on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @03:13PM (#39860483) Homepage

      No, the judge is right.

      There was a post on GrokLaw about the terrible reporting about this. The Jury was told to assume that they can be copyrighted and render a decision.

      IF the jury says Google violated that hypothetical copyright, THEN the judge will rule on if that stuff can be copyrighted. If the jury says the hypothetical copyright wasn't violated, then the judge won't need to rule on it.

      • by Talennor (612270)

        Because one person deciding something is so much less efficient and costs so much more that we should exhaust all the other options and try the easier approach of a full jury trial first.

        Seriously? Wtf, judge?

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

          by blinkin247 (971822) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @03:36PM (#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, Informative)

          by Col. Klink (retired) (11632) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @04:08PM (#39861185)

          First, if the jury finds that google did NOT violate the hypothetical API copyright, Oracle's case ends there. You can't appeal the finding of the jury, so that matter could be settled immediately and completely and saving the appeal court's resources.

          If, instead, the judge immediately declares that the API is not copyrightable, that decision can (and will) be appealed. If he is later overturned (no matter how unlikely), that would then require a NEW jury trial to then decide if google actually violated the copyright. Since the jury has already heard the evidence and has other things to decide, why not let them make that decision right now.

          So yes, this seriously saves resources and this judge really seems to understand things.

      • They try not to make new precedent, if they don't have to for the most part. They'll rule on something more narrowly, when possible.

    • by pavon (30274) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @03:13PM (#39860491)

      The summary is wrong. The judge has not said that APIs are eligible for copyright; his ruling on that will come later. He merely asked the jury to determine whether Google copied the Java APIs, regardless of whether it was legal or not.

      This makes sense from a procedural point of view. In the court system, juries determine matters of fact and judges determine matters of law. The judge knows that this case will be appealed regardless of how he rules, so he is playing it safe and making sure that the jury determines any matters of fact that may come to play during the appeals process to avoid a second jury trial later.

      • Ever heard of jury nullification [wikipedia.org]? Despite what most judges, lawyers, law enforcement, and lawmakers want you to believe, in the US, the jury has the right to decide the facts and whether on not the law applies (or is just) in this situation.

        Jury nullification is a constitutional doctrine which allows juries to acquit criminal defendants who are technically guilty, but who do not deserve punishment. It occurs in a trial when a jury reaches a verdict contrary to the judge's instructions as to the law.

        A jury verdict contrary to the letter of the law pertains only to the particular case before it. If a pattern of acquittals develops, however, in response to repeated attempts to prosecute a statutory offence, this can have the de facto effect of invalidating the statute. A pattern of jury nullification may indicate public opposition to an unwanted legislative enactment.

  • Somewhat ironically (Score:5, Interesting)

    by squiggleslash (241428) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @02:56PM (#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 TheRaven64 (641858) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @03:10PM (#39860443) Journal
      Unless I missed something, Microsoft only publicly said that they would not sue Mono over patents. They didn't say IP, because they did not want to implicitly grant Mono the use of .NET-related trademarks. They did not license the copyright on any .NET things to the Mono project either because, prior to this, a clean-room reimplementation did not require a copyright license.
      • by Gwala (309968)

        Kinda. C# and .NET and the standard library are a ECMA and IEEE standard. (Microsoft pushed them in as standards), I'm not entirely sure if they did that royalty free (I have a feeling they did), but even if they didn't, ECMA/IEEE requires RAND licensing at worst.

  • We're all screwed (Score:5, Insightful)

    by cfulmer (3166) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @02:58PM (#39860261) Homepage Journal

    What is an API? It's basically an agreement about the ordering and identification of arguments either in memory or in series of network messages. If the judge actually finds that the API itself is copyrightable, then any computer program that writes to a standard interface is completely screwed. Write your own SMTP client? Sorry, that interface is copyright. Your own web server? Ditto.

    APIs are the most functional part of computer programming -- they tell you 'this is how you communicate between parts A and B.' Yet, copyright is intended to only protect expression, not 'how' you do anything -- that's the realm of patent law. And while Oracle has patent claims mixed in here, Oracle isn't claiming a patent on the Java API.

  • by crazyjj (2598719) * on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @02:58PM (#39860263)

    I'm getting a distinct sense lately that we may be coming to the end of the era of innovation and the beginning of an era where it's essentially impossible to invent anything or innovate in any way unless you have a powerful corporate sponsor backing you. Unless you have a sponsor with a big patent collection of their own and deep pockets, how can the little guy possibly hope to defend himself against a bevy of lawsuits that cover even the most trivial or obvious of ideas these days?

    Oracle here isn't even saying that their code was stolen, they're suing a company for writing their own code that implements the same *SYNTAX* as theirs.

    Think of it as an age where the Wright brothers have just pulled their plane to a stop only to be greeted by an army of process servers serving them with dozens of expensive patent lawsuits on the shape of the prop, the design of the stick, even the IDEA of a "craft that flies."

  • by msobkow (48369) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @02:58PM (#39860267) Homepage Journal

    This sounds an awful lot like the arguments that AT&T brought forth against Berkeley regarding the Unix System V vs. BSD arguments back in the early '80s.

    AT&T rightfully lost those arguments, and BSD moved forward.

    If Oracle succeeds with this, you can expect whoever holds the AT&T copyright nowadays to come after Linux and other Unix-like systems again, despite them just following what are now documented standards accepted by the industry.

    Oracle's arguments should be rejected for the same reasons as AT&T's.

    I was under the impression that Google had used the Java GPL source to compile their core jars. I later had it clarified that such is not the case; they used the Apache source.

    A decision in favour of Oracle would throw the entire computing industry overboard and cause no end of harm to the industry.

    • by cdrudge (68377)

      If Oracle succeeds with this, you can expect whoever holds the AT&T copyright nowadays to come after Linux and other Unix-like systems again, despite them just following what are now documented standards accepted by the industry.

      Call me silly, but I don't think Novell would have spent the last half of the previous decade indemnifying Linux users and defending it's UNIX copyrights if it intended in turning around and suing them for the exact same thing SCO was trying to do.

  • by Todd Knarr (15451) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @03:00PM (#39860307) Homepage

    What about all the sockets implementations, including Windows, that use the Berkeley sockets API? How about every implementation of the standard C library, which uses the API from the original Unix C library?

    Or how about PCs themselves? IBM holds the copyrights to the original PC BIOS API. And not a single machine today uses a BIOS that was written with a license from IBM to reimplement the BIOS API. That was the whole point of the Phoenix and other compatible BIOSes. If the old holding in the case between IBM and Compaq/Phoenix is invalidated, can IBM enjoin the production of every PC system out there (including x86-based servers) and demand the destruction of all infringing copies (ie. every single PC-compatible system including x86-based servers) as allowed under USC Title 17 Section 503 [cornell.edu]?

  • by Un pobre guey (593801) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @03:03PM (#39860349) Homepage
    These days it seems that judges are at best arbiters of legal technicality. Their abject ignorance of so many everyday technical, scientific, and artistic issues is becoming a significant threat to our economy and our society.
  • by walterbyrd (182728) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @03:12PM (#39860473)

    If APIs are copyrightable, could other companies use that against Oracle?

    • If APIs are copyrightable, could other companies use that against Oracle?

      No, because Oracle isn't compatible with anything.

  • by zullnero (833754) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @04:20PM (#39861297) Homepage
    You're taking a fairly clear case, such as Google's use of Java APIs (which are being used by Google as if they were completely free and under public domain, even though a really big chunk of Oracle's business is in tight integration of Oracle database products with Java, which is technically their property as it was Sun's), and trying to extend it to cases that are really, really unclear. The owners of C suing C++? What are you talking about? Someone...maybe one of the various Unix variation's owners...who owns some of the algorithms behind the stdio apis suing Bjarne Stroustrop? Random companies? And wouldn't they get sued themselves for deriving from earlier works if that were true? That's highly unclear. Just like it is with a lot of those other technologies you rattled off, many that are at least partially IN the public domain and can be derived from as is their nature as object oriented languages.

    In a nutshell, I know how many of you are Android fanboys and I understand that there will be some who whine about Oracle suing Google over their misuse of their technology, but basically anyone even slightly familiar with Android's Java implementation knows that it's not quite "real" Java. And Microsoft got their pants sued off for doing basically the same thing (and people didn't complain so much about the end of programming as we knew it because it was Microsoft), so there is certainly a precedent for this lawsuit. Google just needs to remove all that Java from Android and replace it with their own framework. Other mobile operating systems have done that already. Everyone who knew anything knew this was going to happen, but Android got too big, too fast, and by doing so they would break a huge number of third party apps (as in, probably all of them) and anger a lot of vendors who've been selling systems with Android on them. That's the main reason why Google would settle this case and pay up if it keeps going. However, it's awful doubtful to me that the Netscape people will have a solid case to sue everyone who uses javascript, and that Bjarne Stroustroup will get sued for C++ by some Unix property holder. Any judge would throw that out because there's no clear cut case there with companies sitting on those properties that they are being negatively impacted by the "misuse" of one of their properties (and that's even if their patent holds up under review anymore).
  • by hackula (2596247) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @04:28PM (#39861403)
    It is a zero sum game at this point. If this actually becomes precedent, Oracle would get obliterated, along with everybody else. Plenty of languages have come before Java and you better believe there is some major api overlap. I cannot wait to watch the world burn when Oracle is forced to pay a 50 million dollar license for the use of the copyrighted ToString() function.
  • by alienzed (732782) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @04:29PM (#39861411) Homepage
    is the most backward, selfish and anti-progress idea ever. To think that the only time anyone would solve a problem would be if they had an enormous financial reward coming their way. What about the benefits of solving the problem itself? Is that not enough anymore?
  • by scamper_22 (1073470) on Tuesday May 01, 2012 @05:11PM (#39861879)

    We live in a world where everyone wants to assign monetary value to things.

    In such a world, the design of an API is serious work. We've all used good APIs and bad APIs. It is a very skillful operation.

    Not saying if this is the ideal world or not... just that it is the world in which we live in. We live in a world of professions (lawyers, doctors, accountants...) where they protect their trade and professional quality.

    One possible solution is if APIs want this protection, then they should have to explicitly declare it. The 'market' will to a large extent respond appropriately. Companies that declare their APIs copyrighted will be handicapped. There will be fewer compatible tools. Fewer developers will train themselves in the API...

    There are already well-established anti-trust and anti-monopoly regulations to protect against abuse in such cases. They must charge 'reasonable' fees...
    We've been through such cases before... for example with rail road operators.

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