May 07, 2012

What does it mean to developers if Oracle wins on its argument that APIs are copyrightable?

In the first portion of the Google/Oracle trial, Oracle is arguing that Google used APIs that are copyrighted by Oracle (or were copyrighted by Sun). I've always thought that as long as you didn't straight up copy the software, you could reproduce an API's interface. In fact, you kinda have to. If Oracle's position is accepted as "The Law", isn't this going to be a big issue for many, many developers?


It could have far reaching impact.  Linux programers might want to think about writing code and using POSIX APIs.   How do you deal with it if you can't use those APIs?  Dunno.  And one example of unintended consequences that I've heard used is that this raises the question whether IBM could claim SQL and HTML because they grew out of IBM's work.  


The partial verdict that was reached still leaves us guessing.  Essentially, the jury said, yeah Google took Oracle/Sun Java code, but then they didn't decide whether that was permissible or not.  Without answering that question, I don't see how any conclusion can be reached. 

I suspect it will inspire many developers to avoid making the same choices as Google. Heh. We'll have to wait and see how it turns out though. You just never know how the courts are going to deal with these kinds of things. It may yet turn out in Google's favor. We'll see.
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