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GUI Programming Software The Courts

A California Jury Finds Copyright Infringement In an Interface (deepchip.com) 125

whoever57 writes: A California jury in one of the cases between Synopsys and Atoptech found copyright infringement in Atoptech's use of the "Primetime commands". These companies compete in the field of EDA ("Electronic Design Automation") software: software that is used by semiconductor companies to design ICs. The Primetime commands are merely an interface. Atoptech has their own implementation of the functionality that these commands [provide]. This can be seen as similar to the Oracle vs. Google lawsuit, in which an appeals court has found that providing a similar interface (via header files) can constitute copyright infringement. Naturally, there will be appeals in this case.
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A California Jury Finds Copyright Infringement In an Interface

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  • by mmiscool ( 2434450 ) on Friday March 11, 2016 @09:23AM (#51676831)
    How many people believe in owning imaginary things.
    • by goombah99 ( 560566 ) on Friday March 11, 2016 @10:06AM (#51677003)

      If you beleive anything you might have learned in computer science surely it is that spending time to get the API right is the most important thing. populating the implementation of the sub sections defined by the API is the work you give to the C-students. You let the A-students come define the interface. The API is the most valuable part of the whole

      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 11, 2016 @10:34AM (#51677185)

        If you beleive anything you might have learned in computer science surely it is that spending time to get the API right is the most important thing. populating the implementation of the sub sections defined by the API is the work you give to the C-students. You let the A-students come define the interface. The API is the most valuable part of the whole

        The API is no doubt important. Your post reads as possibly sarcasm, but either way, the implementation is at least as important. Screw that up, and your API means nothing. Also, your API will reflect what your code actually does. Even the best engineer is likely not going to see deeply enough to build a perfect API the first time. Actual coding is very likely to cause revisions to the API that better reflect how things should be, once the problem can be better understood.

        All that being said, none of this addresses the original question. Should APIs be copyrightable? Sure, they arguably are a creative work, but if you allow a copyright on that aspect of a creative work, such that it cannot be duplicated you cause monopoly situations which are not in favour of the world at large. Think of the Java thing, by not allowing someone to write a compatible API, it means that everything Java would go back to one corporation that can just rake in the bucks, because writing a completely new API breaks everyone else's work and requires a almost total rewrite.

        Basically allowing API's to be copies is, imnsho, a reasonable fair use exception. Interoperability is more important than another multinationals profit.

        • The API is no doubt important. Your post reads as possibly sarcasm, but either way, the implementation is at least as important. Screw that up, and your API means nothing.

          You can fix an implementation yourself. You can't fix the dozen applications that already use a bad API. So you have to keep it around. Meaning that more people will keep misusing it in the future. To me, merely having to fix an implementation definitely seems like the more desirable problem of the two. Just look at some of the most memorable interface screwups: null pointers, C strings...

          • You can fix the bad APIs, or bypass them, amend them, work around them, etc. One big problem is that the people most likely to make the API and turn it into an unchangeable set of holy scriptures are often the people least able to do actual implementation. They'll insist on ridiculous things like all accesses to variables must be through getters/setters, or all libraries and objects must be acquired through cumbersome methods involving UUIDs rather than passing a simple pointer. These people tend to be s

            • You can fix the bad APIs, or bypass them, amend them, work around them, etc. ....

              In part this is the value of hypertext and CGI.
              An interface bridges A to B and perhaps back.
              It can invoke functionality in a chaotic arrangement line an adventure game
              or it can organize the steps into a smooth sane flow.
              The concept of this abstraction is not unique to HTML and the web.

              Commonly an engineer will craft an interface that matches the
              outline of the design specification documentation. It facilitates
              check off and testing but stinks as a user interface.
              The user interface people can change a quirky

        • As I recall, copyright actually has an exception carved out for functionality - you can copyright the aesthetic components of a work, but *not* the functional ones. And I think most programmers will agree that the API falls firmly in the functional category - it must be adhered to exactly for interoperability.

          • The problem is that the original creator of the API does not want it to be used for interoperability in this case. They want the API for their own use or for customers to integrate with their own libraries, they don't want some third party to use the API to replace their libraries with competing versions.

            Whether their stance is correct or not, I think that copyright law is being used only because the APIs are written down rather than copyright law being inherently applicable in such disputes.

            • Shouldn't matter - the entire purpose of an API is to allow for interoperability between a library and the software using it - it's a functional component, and thus should not be eligible for copyright protection. Only the aesthetic aspects can be copyrighted, so... white space and comments I guess?

              • by macraig ( 621737 )

                Completely off-topic... recall how you told me 3 years ago that you were beginning to mod Skyrim? Last year I finally got the game. Where do I find your efforts?

                • Sadly my primary mod was repeatedly broken by game updates, and I ended up abandoning Skyrim in disgust. My girlfriend has been considering starting a game though, so that may be enough to get me to add the final polish to some of the less ambitious mods in the next few months.

                  • by macraig ( 621737 )

                    The era of Bethesda updates to the game are probably over, don't you think? :-) The game code is static and Skyrim modding is as hot as ever right now; check out the activity at NexusMods. There's even a mod to add client-server co-op play to the game... imagine playing the game in the same worldspace as your girlfriend! I just bought a new 4GB graphics card to allow a new level of texture-happy modded gameplay, and I have about 1000 mods to consider and whittle down to the allowed 255....

                    • Yea, but once lost, momentum on a project is difficult to regain. Still, perhaps it's time to revisit it. Co-op you say? Is it working reliably?

                    • by macraig ( 621737 )

                      I haven't tried it but once, and that was early on when it was buggy, then Nexus Mod Manager got a controversial upgrade and it destroyed my game completely. I haven't had a chance to test it since. Now that I have the new graphics card I'm planning on starting over. The Tamriel Online co-op mod will demand revisiting because I'm married now and my wife also plays (she got me into it).

        • by bondsbw ( 888959 )

          Copyrighting an API is like copyrighting a wheel hub on a car, and then suing a wheel manufacturer that creates a wheel for that hub. Or, copyrighting the design of a seat and then suing anyone who makes custom covers.

          I feel like this is so obvious and has been solved for a long time, but because it is "for a computer" then all rules go out the window and we have to start over and do it stupidly this time.

          • The wheel hub is not copyrighted, but the textual description of how to create a wheel hub with the right dimensions. Copyright law I think is being misused in this case. There really is not a good set of laws or legal principles regarding the disputes here, one side basically wants to protect their market, the other side wants to sell their product as better and interoperable. The fact that the rules for interoperability must be copied in order to do this in software is what allows copyright laws to be

      • Feel free to try to write a state of the art timing engine. I think you will be shocked to find that writing the API is trivial compared to the engine. I'm in EDA and I can tell you from experience, P&R engines, timing engines, synthesis, formal verification, physical verification and simulators are all very very hard problems. The A++ list people write them.

        • Which tends to be the polar opposite of modern programming style in major corporations. People spend tons of time on the API for very simple minded implementations. Designs may consist of a google search to find a set of libraries that already do the job. The APIs rise to the level of utmost importance because implementation in many companies has devolved to the point of connecting one pre-built interface to another pre-built interface.

      • No, the A students should do the real work. Do not leave to C students to screw up the implemention. The people most slavish to following an API tend to be the C student types anyway, since once they have their holy scriptures then the burden of having to think is removed.

        I agree though that you don't want some hack creating the API because it has long term consequences. It's easier to start a new project from scratch than it is to change an API. But an API should also be very fluid during design and fi

    • I patent hydrogen. Now it's your turn

      But don't you dare to patent elementary particles! This would ruin the fun of patenting atoms, and I can't have my hydrogen.

      And don't complain that you wanted to patent molecules before I had the idea of patenting atoms! That's not how the game's supposed to be played

      • by gnupun ( 752725 )

        I patent hydrogen. Now it's your turn

        LOL, you can't patent things found in nature. Try harder, Mr. anti-patent troll.

        Utility patents protect the core concepts behind a man-made invention. If a human being creates an invention, he/she owns it, not you, not leeches, not nature and not the government.

        • by Rakarra ( 112805 )

          If a human being creates an invention, he/she owns it, not you, not leeches, not nature and not the government.

          A patent is necessarily a government intervention. It's a prevention of someone else doing the same labor, even if he came about it independently.

    • by creimer ( 824291 )

      How many people believe in owning intangibles?

      FTFY

    • by doccus ( 2020662 )

      My farts are not imaginary! And your farts sound too much like mine! I'm suing!!

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Let's eliminate copyrights and patents here in the EU. Let the rest of the world fight and sue each other while we'll have freedom. The EU is smart enough to do something like this, unlike the US. The boost to EU economies will be enough to render the US even more irrelevant than it already is.

    • by GLMDesigns ( 2044134 ) on Friday March 11, 2016 @10:06AM (#51676997)
      No. Let copyright exist for those who want it. Instead start using and promoting Free Software.

      http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/... [gnu.org]
      http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/... [gnu.org]
      http://askubuntu.com/questions... [askubuntu.com]
      • Re: (Score:2, Troll)

        by Grishnakh ( 216268 )

        The problem is that regular people, especially those on juries, are just too stupid to adopt and use Free Software.

        • I wouldn't call it stupid. Technology isn't their interest and many (free software) systems are not quite user-friendly. As time goes on they are becoming easier to user; easier to install and soon there won't be a technological barrier preventing people from using free software for a lot of what they do.

          At that point it will be a philosophical decision as the technological barrier will no longer be in place.

          I know PhDs in Biology who can barely tell the difference between a coaxial cable and a powe
          • It has nothing to do with knowing the different between electrical cords, it's a basic concept about freedom. It's the exact same principle governing access to service manuals and diagnostic information for your car: do you want to be forced to go to the stealership, or do you want to be able to take your car to any qualified mechanic?

            It's pretty sad that I have to explain this to someone on Slashdot of all places. I guess this really isn't a nerd site any more.

            • You're preaching to the choir. My point is that the technological barrier with using free software prevents others from using them. As these barriers drop adoption will rise.

              Berating friends and family for not using more free software is not the solution. There are many steps in correcting this situation. One of them is simply making people be aware of the reasons to use free software. THEN, as the software becomes easier to adopt they will have both the incentive to switch while no longer being blocked
              • My point is that the technological barrier with using free software prevents others from using them. As these barriers drop adoption will rise.

                No, it doesn't, as I just pointed out with cars. You don't have to be a mechanic to understand that it's better to be able to get your car serviced at a practically infinite number of independent mechanics rather than being stuck with the dealership. The exact same principle applies with software. Most people are not mechanics and don't work on their own cars, bu

                • You make a good point. BUT there is a difference. Linux was much harder to use 15 years ago than it is now. The avg person can use linux now without a problem (provided it's installed for him). As free software packages become easier to install and are as convenient to use as Office (for example). Then people will use them as well.

                  The car analogy you mentioned would have to include that free software is stick only (no automatic) with no power windows or steering. A few years ago you also had to go the
      • And watch developers and publishers of free software get sued for patent infringement or copyright infringement for having reimplemented elements essential to interoperating with instances of the incumbent proprietary product or service operated by users who have not yet embraced free software. Though Replicant OS is free software, Google (developer of the Android Open Source Project that forms the basis of Replicant OS) still lost to Oracle.

        • I'm not saying there isn't a problem with copyright laws. There are many.

          I don't think the solution is to eliminate them. They have a place.

          My quick solution for copyright infringement lawsuits as per technology is to involve a more technologically literate audience - and many lawyers and judges will not be comfortable with that as many are innumerate and proudly so. (I have sat in many court rooms as a landlord and for business.) As a result the judges involved will need to be technologically liter
      • Let copyright exist for those who want it.

        A fine solution, if it were actually implemented consistently. If you want to claim copyright for your own works, you have to honor the copyright claims of others. Reciprocation is fair, after all. However, if you do not attempt to claim copyright on your own works, others cannot press any copyright claims against you. The penalty for copyright infringement is thus limited to having your own copyright claims invalidated.

        The problem with copyright law is that it affects everyone, whether they want it or not.

        • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

          So you think you can take away my rights by not using yours?? Nope.

          • So you think you can take away my rights by not using yours?

            You mischaracterize the argument by phrasing the rejection of copyright as "not using" copyright. This is a form of circular reasoning; you presume the validity of copyright law from the start, when this is the very issue at stake. You claim that the right exists; others disagree. You are naturally free to behave as though the right exists when interacting with other like-minded individuals, but there is nothing inherent to the act of copyright violation that would justify a punishment more severe than viol

            • by bws111 ( 1216812 )

              You said:

              If you want to claim copyright for your own works, you have to honor the copyright claims of others

              In order for that sentence to make any sense at all, two things must be true: copyright must exist, and 'you' have a CHOICE (notice the IF in your statement) as to whether you want enforce it or not.

              Then you said :

              if you do not attempt to claim copyright on your own works, others cannot press any copyright claims against you

              So, copyright still exists, you still have a choice as to whether or not to enforce, but NOBODY ELSE has the same choice. WTF???

              Copyright IS uniform and universal. Nobody has to 'claim' anything. EVERYBODY has the right to create things, and EVERYBODY gets the SAME protections for th

              • If you want to claim copyright for your own works, you have to honor the copyright claims of others

                In order for that sentence to make any sense at all, two things must be true: copyright must exist, and 'you' have a CHOICE (notice the IF in your statement) as to whether you want enforce it or not.

                Copyright as a concept must exist, but that goes without saying. That does not imply that it represents any kind of universal right which you could enforce on others with threats of fines or other violation of their physical property rights or personal liberty. As always, reciprocation is the key: it would be nonsensical to claim copyright protection on your own works while ignoring similar claims made by others, and the same goes for their claims if they choose to ignore yours.

                if you do not attempt to claim copyright on your own works, others cannot press any copyright claims against you

                So, copyright still exists, you still have a choice as to whether or not to enforce, but NOBODY ELSE has the same choice.

                On the contrary, everyone els

    • by Jason Levine ( 196982 ) on Friday March 11, 2016 @11:05AM (#51677435)

      Copyright does have its uses. Without it, someone could publish a book and have a movie company make a movie based on the book right away without giving the author anything. The problem with copyrights is that the terms and penalties have gotten all out of whack.

      Copyrights now last for 90+ years and judges have indicated that any length of time is fine so long as it is limited. By this logic, they could extend copyright to 1 million years and argue that this is a "limited" period of time. Copyright lengths should be reduced to 14 years with a one-time, paid 14 year renewal. If something isn't making you enough money after 14 years to warrant paying for renewal, you let it go. And after 28 years, you should be able to milk everything out of it that you could so you release it to the public domain and make something new.

      On the penalties front, the penalties were set in the days when casual copyright infringement was hardly ever prosecuted. People made and shared mix tapes recorded off the radio, but weren't sued for it. People who made multiple copies of CDs and sold them on the street corners, though, would find themselves in court facing huge fines. I'd argue that we should keep "commercial copyright infringement" fines where they are and cap "non-commercial/home infringement" at 10x the cost of buying the item infringed on. So if you uploaded 1,000 songs, you would face a fine of $0.99*10*1,000, or $9,900. High enough to act as a deterrent but not so high as to bankrupt you immediately. (Right now, uploading 1,000 songs would mean a fine of $750,000 to $150,000,000.)

      If we reigned in copyright's length and fines, the balance would be restored and the usefulness of copyright would shine through again.

      • Without it, someone could publish a book and have a movie company make a movie based on the book right away without giving the author anything.

        - there is 0 problem with this. Government shouldn't be in any business, including business of protectionism and oppression via artificial oppressive monopoly power enforced by government agencies on anybody's behalf.

        • Actually, there is every problem with this. Let's take the Harry Potter books, for example. Rewind to when the first book was released (1997). The first movie was released in 2001 - only 4 years later. What would have happened if copyright wasn't an issue? Warner Brothers Pictures could have produced and released the movies without paying JK Rowling one cent. In fact, who would pay the author anything for any work if they didn't have to?

          Stepping away from adaptations, one of the big problems, historic

          • To me it is 100% irrelevant that a book author gets no copyright protection from the government. An author getting his or her book used as a movie plot is 0 issue, whether they get paid for something or not. Same with software, music, video, anything at all. All of these artificial monopolies provided by the government oppression is insane from every point of view, including the moral and the economic arguments.

          • Then there are the comic book artists working for low to moderate pay who finds that some panels are enlarged and end up in museums of art making lots of money for Roy Lichtenstein with no royalties being paid.

            • That's definitely a problem. Someone's work shouldn't be simply enlarged by an "artist" who calls the resulting piece an "original artwork" when all he did was make it bigger. However, if the roman_mir had his way and copyright was fully abolished, then those comic book artists would have zero recourse. People could take their artwork and immediately republish it not only as a museum art piece, but as another comic book under the same name. The comic book artist would see people buying his works but sin

              • by Rakarra ( 112805 )

                Most of the time the comic artist creates a work for hire, so he has zero ownership of it should it be put on a t-shirt or displayed in a museum.

                • And what of people like Bill Watterson who own the copyrights on their own works. I know there are countless "Calvin peeing" decals for cars and (to my knowledge) he hasn't taken a "sue them all into oblivion" approach. Still, if someone were to have mass produced a "Hobbes" stuffed animal in 1990, should Bill Watterson have been given no recourse and receive no compensation?

                  By the way, this example does bump slightly into my theory that copyright terms should be more limited which is why I added "in 1990

      • Copyright lengths should be reduced to 14 years with a one-time, paid 14 year renewal. If something isn't making you enough money after 14 years to warrant paying for renewal, you let it go. And after 28 years, you should be able to milk everything out of it that you could so you release it to the public domain and make something new.

        While it's not a bad idea, I've got a counter-proposal. Copyright is really a bundle of different rights, including the right to make copies, the right to distribute a work, and the right to make derivative works. Making copies of an original work or distributing it seems to be significantly less defensible than making a derivative work. For example, even though it's been more than 14 years, making dozens of copies of the movie Die Hard and/or distributing them to others is directly using another's creative work, without adding anything. However, making a derivative work, such as a Die Hard musical or a Roshomon-style "Die Hard from Gruber's perspective" movie, requires creativity and makes something new that didn't exist before.
        Similarly, copying and distributing Steamboat Willie doesn't add anything, but making a new Steamboat Willie adventure does. Or copying and distributing an album, compared to remixing it or sampling it for use in an otherwise new work.

        Accordingly, I'd submit that copyright term should be split, with a very short exclusive term for creation of derivative works: if a book author wants to remake it as a screenplay, or a band wants to remix their album into a dance version, let them have, say, five years. If they don't, let others take a turn with their creativity. But keep the longer term for exact copying and distribution of the original, since infringing that doesn't add anything new to the art.

        On the penalties front, the penalties were set in the days when casual copyright infringement was hardly ever prosecuted. People made and shared mix tapes recorded off the radio, but weren't sued for it. People who made multiple copies of CDs and sold them on the street corners, though, would find themselves in court facing huge fines. I'd argue that we should keep "commercial copyright infringement" fines where they are and cap "non-commercial/home infringement" at 10x the cost of buying the item infringed on. So if you uploaded 1,000 songs, you would face a fine of $0.99*10*1,000, or $9,900. High enough to act as a deterrent but not so high as to bankrupt you immediately. (Right now, uploading 1,000 songs would mean a fine of $750,000 to $150,000,000.)

        And here, I disagree with your calculation because of those different rights to copy and distribute noted above. Making a mix tape creates individual copies, and so a fine that's related to the cost of buying those copies makes sense. But distributing copies to others or sharing a song online is distribution, and the distribution rights cost much, much more than a single copy. It's not like Apple pays Taylor Swift $0.99 for a copy of her latest song that they then resell to millions on the iTunes Store - they're paying many tens of thousands, with royalties and likely a fixed minimum amount. Similarly, when Michael Jackson bought a bunch of the Beatles' catalog back in the 1980s, he wasn't just going to the record store and buying individual albums - he was buying the distribution rights, at somewhere around $50k per song.

        So, if you only ever download a song and never upload it - leaching - then you'd have an argument that you were just making a single copy and those fines should be proportional to purchasing a copy. But if you upload the song to others, you're distributing it, and the fine should be proportional to a distribution right - somewhere in that $750 to $30k* range.

        *I specify $30k as opposed to the "up to $150k for willful infringement" in the statute, because I think the RIAA and the courts have been using the wrong definition for "willful". It should be interpreted similarly to how it a

        • I agree that uploading is distribution. The problem is proving exactly how many people the song was distributed to. If you were at a street corner selling DVDs, the police might be able to raid your operation and determine how many CDs you sold, but how do you do this for P2P? Obviously, there's at least one distribution offense (sending the file to the RIAA or related agency who "caught" you and added you to the list to sue), but how many others? Do you sue for distributing to 100? 1,000? 1.000,000?

          • I agree that uploading is distribution. The problem is proving exactly how many people the song was distributed to. If you were at a street corner selling DVDs, the police might be able to raid your operation and determine how many CDs you sold, but how do you do this for P2P? Obviously, there's at least one distribution offense (sending the file to the RIAA or related agency who "caught" you and added you to the list to sue), but how many others? Do you sue for distributing to 100? 1,000? 1.000,000? How do you determine just how many "lost sales" (as much as I hate that term) a share is worth?

            The statutory damages are a reasonable balance there - the jury can decide whether to award at the low end or high end based on the facts, and the defendant can provide mitigating facts, too. For example, if you have a log showing that you only seeded a file to a dozen people, you can show that and argue that you should be liable for the minimum. If you don't have that log, then the jury can assume there's a reason you don't and find you liable for more.

      • There's another problem with copyrights in that they're being extended to things that probably shouldn't be copyrighted. Like APIs.

        • Agreed, but I don't think there would be a rush to extend copyright to APIs if copyright only lasted 14 years (plus a one-time paid 14 year renewal) and had small fees for non-commercial infringement. They might try shifting their arguments to trademark or patents instead, but they'd likely be less successful there.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 11, 2016 @09:31AM (#51676857)

    The whole idea that a jury can decide one way or another on a technical matter is pretty idiotic, and a misapplication of jury process as it enshrines decision making on the basis of ignorance.

    In fact the whole legal system is back to front on this issue, since having specialist domain knowledge in an area often precludes you from serving on a jury in a relevant case. That's severely illogical.

    Not even judges should have the power to make such decisions, because they are experts in law. not in technical topics. Making a good decision based on pro/con arguments presented by technical experts does not mean that the decision will be a good one, because a judge's second-hand understanding will always be superficial at best.

    There are two good sources for informed decision making on technical topics: the professional institutions in a technical domain (such as IEEE, IEE/IET, BCS, ACM), and vocational academic bodies created for this purpose and barred from commercial influence. No human-based decision making can be perfect, but this would at least eliminate the ill-informed harm being done by judges and the general public working outside of their competency.

    • by gtall ( 79522 ) on Friday March 11, 2016 @09:35AM (#51676869)

      Yeah, those organizations are completely free of particular company influence, let them decide.

      • by Anonymous Coward

        Yeah, those organizations are completely free of particular company influence, let them decide.

        Only non-representative or non-inclusive influence is bad.

        These institutions are not free of company influence, but they are influenced by a huge number of companies of all shapes and sizes operating in their tech domain, both nationally and internationally, and they also have a very strong representation from academia. As a result, they are very well informed and also balanced, and so they represent a professio

    • by tsstahl ( 812393 ) on Friday March 11, 2016 @10:41AM (#51677253)

      Judges can appoint a 'special master' to impartially advise the court on technical issues.

      Juries very well may get technical matters wrong, but that is one reason why there are appellate courts.

      I doubt many criminal juries are staffed by people expert in homicide, yet we do not doubt their ability to render a verdict.

      • Except that special masters who are part of the industry are going to be biased towards that industry and it's difficult to find one that really is impartial. For instance, appointing someone who used to be a corporate CTO would result in a bias towards continuing the ongoing patent wars, that software patents are valid, that APIs can be copyrighted, etc. But appoint RMS and you get a bias in the opposite direction.

        A special master can be useful in deciding if a patent really was novel or not. However co

    • by Kjella ( 173770 )

      In fact the whole legal system is back to front on this issue, since having specialist domain knowledge in an area often precludes you from serving on a jury in a relevant case. That's severely illogical.

      I disagree. A technical expert on the jury could easily manipulate the rest by appeal to authority, even though he/she has a biased opinion of the case and dubious evaluation of the evidence. I think you get better results if everybody on the jury thinks their opinions and ideas are of equal value and get technical experts to explain it with concepts they can understand.

      • by Raenex ( 947668 )

        A technical expert on the jury could easily manipulate the rest by appeal to authority, even though he/she has a biased opinion of the case and dubious evaluation of the evidence.

        That's exactly what happened [slashdot.org] in the Samsung vs Apple case.

    • The whole idea that a jury can decide one way or another on a technical matter is pretty idiotic

      Luckily this is not a terribly technical question: Company A cloned company S's product. Is this OK?
      This is NOT a technical question. Its an ethical, legal, economic and societal question.

      And the answer seems to be 'no, it is not fine'. Which is sort of strange, IMHO. But then I'm not an expert on US law or society. I am, however, a expert in this technical field. And had I been on that jury, I would have been as baffled as the next juror.

      • Luckily this is not a terribly technical question: Company A cloned company S's product. Is this OK?

        The short answer is YES IT IS OK.

        The API is not the product, it is how you interact with the product, and it has been established in countless precedents that it is covered by fair use.

        Unfortunately, not in the USA, where the legal system has been sold to the highest bidder in a manner that makes corruption in third world countries appear trivial.

        • Luckily this is not a terribly technical question: Company A cloned company S's product. Is this OK?

          The short answer is YES IT IS OK.

          I disagree. I find it lacking in morals. Go invent your own tooling language, or better yet, agree on a standard. But drop-in clone replacement without so much as a by-your-leave is a douche move.

  • I wonder when someone is going to write a free-form written-language parser that will read in a carefully worded english description and spit out a header file. Then you can have your own description as a paragraph of poetry, which generates headers internally as part of the compilation process. This would make the whole problem of "illegal to have compatible interface" problem go away.

    • by qbast ( 1265706 )
      Sounds like extension of BDD.
      • Sounds like extension of BDD.

        What's BDD?

        • by all204 ( 898409 )

          Business Driven Development. The little I know is you write out in English the business rules you need a piece of software to operate on. Then you program around these requirements. I mainly see it in testing/QA right now and it's my only experience with it. Those business requirements get compiled into a class with empty method that I fill in and test the dev code with. Basically unit testing but at a higher level that covers the business rules. I'm working with SpecFlow right now if you're curious. http:/ [specflow.org]

  • The script commands are eerily similar to Modelsim (now owned by Mentor Graphics)

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Well... Socket/plug connections are patentable so I'm not bothered that APIs can be copyrighted.
    That a copyrighted API lasts 5 times as long as the hardware patent bothers me.
    (Legislator: "That's a good point we'll increase the length of the patents to match!
    Me: "no no No!!!!")

    • by Gr8Apes ( 679165 )
      If we could use the argument that copyright should be reduced to less than 20 years, I'm all for it. The only one that would really be "hurt" by such shortening is Disney, honestly.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 11, 2016 @10:03AM (#51676987)

    A copyright infringement case is up before in East Texas alleging that parrots infringe on the human copyright of speech. The defense wanted to bring in specialists to discuss convergent evolution, but the judge said, "I don't see what a bunch of biologists has to do with copyright law."

  • by lkcl ( 517947 ) <lkcl@lkcl.net> on Friday March 11, 2016 @10:56AM (#51677361) Homepage

    there was an amicus brief signed by nearly a hundred software libre supporters: i read it, and they missed some really, really important very dangerous examples of how copyrighting interfaces destroys both proprietary and libre software *and hardware* business models.

    * assembly instructions. assembly instructions *are* the "interface" between the hardware and the software. if assembly instructions themselves become copyrighted - a restricted form of of free speech if you will - then we are hopelessly screwed. software distributors - any software - presently being sold (or given away as libre binaries) WORLDWIDE - would need all of a sudden to contact the *PROCESSOR* designers to gain their permission in order to continue distribution of what was previously recognised as legal and covered under free speech laws.

    * the GPL, LGPL, AGPL, and all other software licenses whether they be proprietary or libre, would need to be updated in order to explicitly grant permission to use the APIs that were previously recognised as "free speech" [code, under precedent, is recognised as being "speech"]. in cases where changing the license is *NOT POSSIBLE* such as with the GPLv2 on the linux kernel, the problem becomes extremely serious. for those people not familiar with the problem of the GPLv2 license on the linux kernel: it's GPLv2 not GPLv2+, and, given that there are several thousand individual copyright holders - each and every one of whom needs to be contacted and EXPLICITLY asked if they agree to the license change, you start to understand how flat-out impossible that is. especially given that some of those people will have died, or changed name, or will have been working for companies at the time and so on. so all of a sudden, given that it would not be possible to update the license, and given that the license would no longer cover APIs within the copyrighted work of the linux kernel, the burden is on the END-USER to request permission of the copyright-holders - all of them - for the requisite permission... and thus we are completely fucked because the exact same problem occurs, in contacting and tracking down thousands of people. remember: if you can't *get* permission, you must cease and desist from use of the software, otherwise you are acting in a criminal capacity.

    * RPC mechanisms. (remote procedure calls). all and any RPC interfaces - by virtue of *being* interfaces - would become copyrighted. this would entirely defeat the extremely protracted and lengthy ground-breaking work by which the samba team members managed - over many years - to persuade the EU to compel microsoft to release their IDL files for interoperability purposes. if it now becomes necessary for each and every end-user as well as developer to contact microsoft and ask their permission to use their suddenly-copyrighted interfaces.... what do you think is going to happen?

    * Silicon Chips - even just *buying* a chip would be problematic as its "interfaces" would be copyrighted. we have enough problems as it is with NDAs and being unable to get hold of datasheets: what do you think would happen if the sellers of ICs suddenly started enforcing license agreements and copyright enforcement agreements because the pins of the chip were considered to be "interfaces" and thus "controlled"? supply via distributors - especially smaller ones - would be sent into absolute chaos.

    the most amazing thing is that i was actually contacted by someone who claimed that there were *supporters* in the software libre community of copyrighting of interfaces, because it would somehow strengthen the effects of the GPL. as such copyrighting is in effect an extremely dangerous restriction of "freedom of speech" (because it effectively terminates your free unrestricted right to "talk" in the "language" of the "interface"), any such perceived "benefits" are utterly smashed by the total chaos that the entire world - with its now heavy-dependence on software and hardware - would be thrown into.

    i just... i'm completely blown away that there are intelligent people out there who do not understand how utterly insane the concept of API copyrighting really is.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      You're the one who does not understand.

      *Using* an interface is not copying it. Makers of ICs would use interface copyright against manufacturers of clones, not against purchasers of the IC.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      i'm completely blown away that there are intelligent people out there who do not understand how utterly insane the concept of API copyrighting really is.

      It might be helpful to phrase it using an analogy they can understand:

      It's basically like being able to copyright the individual words of the English language.

      Each English word constitutes an "interface" (if you will) to an idea. Every function name in an API is directly analogous to an English word -- and in fact, it is often expressed in high level software using an English word.

      Every function call with arguments is analogous to a short phrase in English -- for example "turn off motor #3". Is it reason

  • by headkase ( 533448 ) on Friday March 11, 2016 @11:57AM (#51677837)

    Remember way back when at the dawn of the PC era? When Tandy clean-room reversed engineered IBM's BIOS? That led directly, directly, to the PC as an open-platform. If the PC wasn't open, and therefore became the de-facto standard, then very arguably we would be stuck with crappy machines right now because innovation would have been dead. IBM would have had a strangle-hold on their implementation and if you didn't like their MicroBUS then you could build your own complete architecture. Copyrighting API's sounds good to non-technical people but people in the know know that it is the death-knell for advancement. The specific implementation deserves copyright but API's, and various implementations of them, are what foster competition and therefore better stuff, faster.

  • by American Patent Guy ( 653432 ) on Friday March 11, 2016 @01:24PM (#51678759) Homepage

    Yes, an interface is covered by copyright, but it is also covered by the fair use and implied license doctrines. The fair use doctrine is (in the U.S.) a statutory right of the public to use a copyrighted work that is "fair". If you bought a movie on VHS (years ago), for example, you can convert it to DVD format for your own use without paying the publisher a second time. You don't get to redistribute the movie to others, because that would impair the publisher's ability to obtain payment in the market and is not "fair".

    The implied license doctrine creates a legal (judicially-created) right and comes about from the way in which a work is distributed. The web code delivered to your browser to read this page is a good example. When you submit an HTTP query for this page, the server delivers a copy of my words and a copy of the web code your browser interprets to display them. By submitting a comment, I have given the world an implied license to have those words copied to your computer, and Slashdot has given an implied license for the web code to your browser.

    The interface here is used to operate either a machine or a software package, which machine or package was purchased for a particular purpose. The interface must be used to operate it, and therefore the supplier gave an implied license to copy those parts of it needed to make it operable. Using the interface would probably also be considered fair, if the machine or package was not copied.

    These are old issues in the legal system ... move along.

    • by jd ( 1658 )

      Linux uses AT&T-defined interfaces. I do NOT want that court case revived.

  • Nothing at *all* like Lotus 1-2-3 vs. Borland, in the eighties....

                    mark

  • by jonwil ( 467024 ) on Friday March 11, 2016 @04:43PM (#51680633)

    I dont know the specifics of this particular case but didn't they already decide that user interfaces aren't protected by copyright in the Lotus vs Borland case?

    Or is there more to this case than just menu options and stuff?

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