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Ellison Doesn't Know If Java Is Free

Soulskill posted more than 2 years ago | from the it-is-except-where-it-isn't dept.

Java 393

New submitter Emacs.Cmode sends this excerpt from CNet: "Among the highlights emanating from U.S. District Court in San Francisco courtroom 8 today was Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's response to a question regarding the status of the Java programming language, which his company acquired when it bought Sun Microsystems in 2010. Asked by Google's lead attorney, Robert Van Nest, if the Java language is free, Ellison was slow to respond. Judge William Alsup pushed Ellison to answer with a yes or no. As ZDNet reporter Rachel King observed in the courtroom, Ellison resisted and huffed, 'I don't know.'" Groklaw has a good write-up about what happened during day one of the trial and a briefer summary of what happened on day two.

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393 comments

Good answer (3, Insightful)

Fjandr (66656) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719475)

That's probably the best answer he could have given under the circumstances, though I can understand why he was loathe to give it.

Re:Good answer (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39719565)

The honest answer would have been, "in some ways yes, in some ways definitely not".

Oracle's courtroom slideshow at the bottom was really damning... as was its purpose. It's pretty clear that Java is meant to be a fucking trap.

And there's no way we're going to get away from it any time soon. Fuck you Oracle. Fuck you twice. :(

Re:Good answer (3, Funny)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#39720029)

You were warned.

Re:Good answer (1)

anshulajain (1359933) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719859)

I don't if he knows that he's an idiot.

Re:Good answer (5, Insightful)

mwvdlee (775178) | more than 2 years ago | (#39720129)

Given the ambiguity of the word "free", a simple yes/no answer would most likely be incorrect for everything except public domain.

No one knows for sure anymore. (3, Insightful)

Kenja (541830) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719485)

With all the legal complications surrounding it, I would be hard pressed to say with certainty one way or the other. As a concept, I would sy its free. As an actual product, I would have to review everything in it before I could say that it is.

Re:No one knows for sure anymore. (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39719499)

OK, please get on that and when do you think you'll be done?

Free? (5, Interesting)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719489)

What, precisely, does it mean if you say a programming language is free?

Re:Free? (5, Informative)

CrimsonAvenger (580665) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719549)

What, precisely, does it mean if you say a programming language is free?

Well, in context:

Google: The Java Programming Language (JPL) -- nobody owns the Java Programming Language, right?

Ellison: I am not sure.

Google: Anyone can use the JPL without paying royalties, yes?

Ellison: Not sure.

This is apparently significant because in his deposition, he answered those questions with "That's correct"....

Re:Free? (1)

eggfoolr (999317) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719581)

How the hell would Larry know? This is a question for Oracle. He should be allowed to refer the question to advisors if he can't remember or be certain, even if he has answered it before. Oddly enough he's only human (although he may not think of himself that way).

Re:Free? (4, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39719681)

What a bunch of bullcrap. Oracle is not a person. The person who started the lawsuit should testify. That would be ... Larry Ellison. Yes, that is why he is testifying. If he doesn't know, he should not have sued.

Re:Free? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39719699)

The person who started the lawsuit should testify. That would be ... Larry Ellison.

Wrong, Larry Ellison did not file the lawsuit.

Re:Free? (5, Insightful)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719761)

As the chief executive officer, chairman of the board, and largest voting shareholder he most definitely filed the lawsuit. No one at Oracle would wipe their ass unless he approved.

Re:Free? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39719837)

Isn't that why CEOs get such massively bloated compensation? Because they are supposed to be in charge of everything? I could've said "I don't know" too and I'll be happy to say it for only 10% of what Larry gets.

I bet if one of his underlings said that to him he'd drive his boot up his ass and show him the door.

Re:Free? (2)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719915)

10% of what he gets would be $0.10 a year, since he's paid $1 :)

He doesn't give a crap about salary any more, he owns almost 25% of Oracle's stock. He makes over $1B for every $1 the stock goes up. ORCL was up $0.65 today. Cha-ching, that's $700M for Larry. Kind of depressing, really...

Re:Free? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39720005)

As the chief executive officer, chairman of the board, and largest voting shareholder he most definitely filed the lawsuit.

Wrong again, it was filed by Oracle, not by one person, you don't seem to understand the difference between a person and a company. Thus he is not expected to know everything pertaining to the case because he is not Oracle, he is only one part of Oracle.

Re:Free? (2)

mariasama16 (1895136) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719715)

What a bunch of bullcrap. Oracle is not a person. The person who started the lawsuit should testify. That would be ... Larry Ellison. Yes, that is why he is testifying. If he doesn't know, he should not have sued.

On top of that, he IS the CEO of the company. He should have been prepped prior to testifying to expect this question, especially since it appeared in deposition (aka, Google's interested in making sure the answer is in the court records).

Re:Free? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39719893)

He needs to be prepped on whether one of his company's biggest assets is free or not?

Re:Free? (2)

AHuxley (892839) | more than 2 years ago | (#39720073)

Think of it as the free (educational) gateway drug that opens you to the long term harder addiction: TCK (Technology Compatibility Kit).

Re:Free? (4, Insightful)

sjames (1099) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719797)

Isn't he supposed to know? Isn't that supposedly the reason CEOs get paid the big bucks?

Perhaps more to the point, if he is the CEO of Oracle, and even knowing he will be going to court to testify on an issue of Java licensing but he doesn't know what is licensed, isn't that a really strong argument that a 2nd party's infringement (if any) was unintentional? Is Google (or anyone else) really supposed to understand the Java licensing better than the CEO of Oracle?

In fact, I suspect he didn't want to say it was free because that sounded a bit damning for Oracle's claims, but didn't want to say it's non-free since he couldn't back tyhat up and it would be damning for Oracle's efforts to get Java everywhere and in everything, so he went with a variant on the Steve Martin defense.

Re:Free? (5, Insightful)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719789)

Google: Anyone can use the JPL without paying royalties, yes?

Ellison: Not sure.

The correct answer is, "of course they can, it was released under the GPLv2 [slashdot.org] which says, in part:

7. ... If you cannot
distribute so as to satisfy simultaneously your obligations under this
License and any other pertinent obligations, then as a consequence you
may not distribute the Program at all. For example, if a patent
license would not permit royalty-free redistribution of the Program by
all those who receive copies directly or indirectly through you, then
the only way you could satisfy both it and this License would be to
refrain entirely from distribution of the Program.

But ... and I think this is the rub of the case - even though anybody can use Java freely through the GPL, it's not known that Google went that route, probably to avoid having to make Android redistributable (even though it often is anyway). At least I haven't seen Google claim that Davlik etc. are derivavtive works of the GPLv2 release of Java.

So, the ability to keep Android closed when they want to must be worth more to Google than whatever they might eventually have to pay to Oracle.

Re:Free? (4, Informative)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719809)

Java as GPL was unvailable at the time Google developed dalvik. Sun freed the code later.

Re:Free? (3, Informative)

bill_mcgonigle (4333) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719955)

Java as GPL was unvailable at the time Google developed dalvik. Sun freed the code later.

That's true as of 2005, but they could have forked and merged any time after Nov. 2006, even if they didn't keep a tremendous amount of the original OpenJDK code (IIRC having some of the headers is part of the current argument).

They'd just have to re-license the Android, Inc. code under GPL and then merge it.

I suppose Oracle could have still gone after them for pre-2006 'violations' but I think it would be hard to prove much in the way of damages from that time period.

Re:Free? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39719813)

That's not the JPL, that's the JDK and JRE. Not the same, hence Google's prodding about the language itself, not any particular implementation.

Re:Free? (3, Insightful)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719899)

Yeah, I'm sure Ellison's company didn't do any due diligence at all regarding Java rights and ownership before buying Sun. Suuuuuure.

Re:Free? (0)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719617)

What, precisely, does it mean if you say a programming language is free?

as in beer

Is there really any other definition? I understand beer. Don't ask me to understand a EULA. Don't ask my lawyer to either. And we wrote judges off from understanding anything more technical than a pocket calculator instruction book back in 1968.

Re:Free? (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39720069)

But beer isn't free. I don't understand..

Not surprised (4, Interesting)

drew_92123 (213321) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719495)

Just another rich out of touch moron who doesn't know anything about his company...

Re:Not surprised (3, Interesting)

geekmux (1040042) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719589)

Just another rich out of touch moron who doesn't know anything about his company...

Not that I necessarily disagree with you, but I challenge you to answer the question accurately and while under oath. Remember we're looking for a "Yes" or "No" answer here...because all software licenses/patents/agreements are that black and white of course...

Oracles own lawyers would have likely given this answer. Only difference is they've had years of practice saying it in various ways, all of which don't sound near as stupid as "I don't know".

Tehn he should have asked them (5, Insightful)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719781)

Court cases are not a giant free for all. Read up on deposition. Google asked this question before the live trial AND it was answered by Elison as bing correct, java is free. He knew the question was coming because Google lawyers told him well inn advance that it would and he submited his answer in writing. Now in court he suddenky doesnt know? How gullible are you?

Elison is a dinosaur who just hates google for not using oracle databases. Google was smart enough to stay away fro, that steaming pile of crap. If only they had been smart enough to stay away from Java. Ms and Apple were.

Re:Tehn he should have asked them (1)

Shifty0x88 (1732980) | more than 2 years ago | (#39720023)

And to think, they used Java just for the UI, and just so that a lot of people could start programming quickly... shame

Because non-java iOS suffers from a lack of develo (1, Troll)

SmallFurryCreature (593017) | more than 2 years ago | (#39720227)

Yeah, bullshit. iOS pushed its own, and gosh, those poor developers, none of them managed to get programming quickly. Oh wait, which app market is compeltely dominating again?

If google had been smarter they would have made Java an option, not mandatory. Some Google Java fanboy made this choice and now the company is in trouble for it. As much as I dislike Oracle for all this, a part of me hopes they win, just to get rid of Java. Why on earth burden a full unix OS with just one language and a slow one at that.

Maybe if Oracle wins, MeeGo gets a new look. Now that is a nice development platform. Code in anything you bloody well want. A man's phone. I user perl on my phone, just because I can! (typing it on a virtual keyboard is seriously masochistic)

Re:Not surprised (2)

Volante3192 (953645) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719783)

Ellison was not exactly blindsided by this lawsuit. Nor was he blindsided by his day in court. I would expect him, as the Big Cheese, to be briefed on this ahead of time because, well, he's the goddamn Big Cheese.

So, under normal circumstances, if you pulled Ellison off the street and asked "Is the JPL free?" I would expect an "I don't know."

However, when your calendar says, "Lay smack down on Google in court today!!" I'd expect you to have crammed the weeks prior.

Also, we're not looking for a yes/no answer. That only came up after he started hemming and hawing. Something that would not have happened if he was familiar with the licence agreement ahead of time.

Re:Not surprised (3, Interesting)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719709)

OR a CEO on the stand being asked a question that's difficult to answer based on *purely* legal matters.

Is Java "open"? I don't even know if Oracle's lawyers know the specific answer to that question, because what is open? In a PURELY legal stand point, is open about source distribution? Is open about the licensing? Is it about the JDK APIs? What IS open?

that's a question Larry Ellison would've also tanked on too, I'd bet.

Let's be fair (3, Funny)

MrEricSir (398214) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719755)

Let's be fair here, Ellison isn't a rich out of touch moron, he just hasn't caught up on work lately because he's too busy working on his yacht racing. And it's an uphill battle. He even had to pay another team to race against him [sfist.com] in a race that he's paying for. [reuters.com]

Re:Let's be fair (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39719911)

I wonder how many of his staff can use that excuse? "Sorry Larry, I didn't do it, I was busy working on my ship-in-a-bottle hobby."

Yah You Know, CEOs (0)

Greyfox (87712) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719513)

They pay them billions of dollars to look pretty and play golf. Ellison's the prettiest. And he smells like pie. If they really wanted to know anything about Java, they should have asked an Oracle employee who makes a immeasurably miniscule fraction of Ellison's salary.

Re:Yah You Know, CEOs (5, Informative)

smileygladhands (1909508) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719541)

They pay them billions of dollars to look pretty and play golf. Ellison's the prettiest. And he smells like pie. If they really wanted to know anything about Java, they should have asked an Oracle employee who makes a immeasurably miniscule fraction of Ellison's salary.

Actually, Ellison's annual salary is 1$, no joke. He is paid in stock to avoid income taxes.

Re:Yah You Know, CEOs (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39719563)

I've received stock in lieu of a salary increase. Trust me, you still pay quite a bit in income tax...any income from the sale of stock is taxable income.

Re:Yah You Know, CEOs (0)

narcc (412956) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719609)

Taxed at an extraordinarily low rate...

When you don't gratuate high school taxes all same (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39719701)

Parents say it's income tax. No, it's not, it's capital gains.
Cap gains to those of us who pay it.

Keep modding up that bs. It makes everyone look smart because you said "Yeah!" when the idiot said "it's still income tax."
No, it isn't. It's capital gains. Mod the guy up who said "Yeah! It's income tax but a lower rate." No, it's cap gains.

I know you won't understand the difference since after leaving high school you'll go on to marry your high school
sweater, and work in a pit-sweat shop for the rest of your life, and never have capital gains to declare.

You'll think (as the OP and Parent did) that all taxes are income taxes. Mod everything up.

You know best.

Take another puff of that reefer because you and it (and the OP) are the only ones having this delusion that all
taxes are income taxes.

M

Re:When you don't gratuate high school taxes all s (4, Informative)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719799)

You have no idea what you are talking about. Capital gains is obviously a form of income tax. So are dividends, gambling winnings, rental properties, etc. They are not all taxed at the same rate, but that's totally irrelevant.

Everything you put on your 1040 is a form of "income tax". That's why it's official name is "Form 1040, U.S. Individual Income Tax Return". There really isn't even any debate on it, the IRS clearly states capital gains are part of your income tax.

Re:Yah You Know, CEOs (2, Insightful)

slamb (119285) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719891)

Taxed at an extraordinarily low rate...

Yes and no.

My understanding is that if an employer gives you stock outright as part of your compensation, you must pay federal earned income tax on the fair-market value of the stock as of when they gave it to you, which would be 35% for the last dollar earned by someone in the top tax bracket. You also pay federal capital gains tax on any increase in price since then, up to 35% if you held the stock less than a year, likely 15% if you held it more than a year. (It could be 0% if more than a year and your income is less than a certain amount, but if so you probably don't have any stock anyway.)

You might say the 15% is an extraordinary low rate, but then again, if you were just paid a like amount of cash, you could have used it to buy the stock at its fair-market value and achieved the same overall tax rate anyway. The real trick is to (1) have enough spare money that you don't need this income for at least a year, possibly a lot longer depending on market conditions, and to (2) know what stocks will gain so dramatically that your initial investment seems insignificant. If you can do those things on most of your income, the low tax rate is just the icing on the extraordinarily large cake you can easily afford to have and eat, too...

Of course there are some loopholes [motherjones.com] , but I think they're only practical for "job-creators" like Mitt Romney, not regular folk like you and me. (And for the record, some of my income was considered long-term capital gains, but apparently not nearly as much as Romney's; my tax rate was much higher.)

Re:Yah You Know, CEOs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39720145)

Capital gains taxes, stock options all have higher than normal rates. It's not so much so they can get a way without taxes, because the tax rate on such is about 45% (just increased) bush had it lower, Obama let it rise. (thanks for that, just what we needed)

They will use it like a savings account if they see the stock doing ok. They will just cash out when they need the money. Otherwise they don't have to pay taxes on stocks that are in the market.

At least that's my understanding of it

Re:Yah You Know, CEOs (1, Insightful)

Black Parrot (19622) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719573)

Actually, Ellison's annual salary is 1$, no joke. He is paid in stock to avoid income taxes.

Does he have to pay tax when he cashes in the stock?

If so, how does he come out ahead?

(And if no, why isn't he covered with tar and feathers.)

Re:Yah You Know, CEOs (1)

smileygladhands (1909508) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719579)

He has enough real money coming from other sources. He doesn't have to sell the stock he gets from the company.

Re:Yah You Know, CEOs (1)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719827)

And when you are already the 6th richest man on the planet you don't need money coming in from other sources, anyway. Salary, stock grants, whatever, none of those are motivation to help Oracle succeed as much as his 25% share of the company...

Re:Yah You Know, CEOs (1, Offtopic)

fliptout (9217) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719593)

Capital gains tax is 15%. Thus all the controversy with Warren Buffet/Mitt Romney/et al paying a lower tax rate than their secretaries.

Re:Yah You Know, CEOs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39719635)

That's not a capital gain because he didn't buy the stock; there was no investment. Just because it's "stock" doesn't make it a capital gain, and in this case it's ordinary income.

Re:Yah You Know, CEOs (4, Informative)

fliptout (9217) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719703)

Ok, let's go there.

If you sell the stock less than 12 months after exercising the stock option, you pay regular income taxes.

If you sell the stock 12 months after exercising the option, you pay 15%.

http://www.smartmoney.com/personal-finance/taxes/taxes-on-nonqualified-stock-options-9304/ [smartmoney.com]

http://www.smartmoney.com/personal-finance/taxes/taxes-on-incentive-stock-options-12196/ [smartmoney.com]

Re:Yah You Know, CEOs (1)

serbanp (139486) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719801)

Yeah, Stock Options are regular income if sold less than 12 months after exercise and Long-Term Capital Gains (taxed far lower) if after. However, in the second case, I really don't see how he could avoid some AMT penalty...

In Larry's case, is he paid in Stock Options or in Stock (common or restricted)? 'cos if it's the latter, he still pays the standard income tax on the face value at vesting time and can pay the low rate only on the spread when he sells.

Re:Yah You Know, CEOs (1)

Dahamma (304068) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719871)

Actually, he's partially correct. He would have to pay regular income tax on any spread of purchase price (which could be 0 for RSAs) and fair market value on the date he received them. Cap gains (or losses) would be on the difference between that FMV and the price at which he sells them (if/when he ever does).

It's a bit more complicated for ISOs (AMT instead of income) but Ellison most definitely would get NQOs because ISOs are limited to $100K FMV, which would be a joke to him (I'm sure he pays more than that for a week of upkeep on his yacht).

Re:Yah You Know, CEOs (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39719663)

Most of the controversy (eyeroll) is because SS/FICA only applies to the first $100,600 or so and they have large charitable donations. Paid in stock? Sure, the capital gains is at 15% (long term), but it's taxed as normal income when you receive it. Dividends? They're at a lower rate, but only after the company already paid income tax on it (somewhere between 20-40%). With REITS, MLPs, or pass-through corps, you would pay your marginal rate on that dividend income but there wouldn't be a corporate tax and you'd actually wind up keeping more money.

Re:Yah You Know, CEOs (4, Informative)

Fjandr (66656) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719627)

For one thing, you don't have to sell stock to use it. You can borrow against its value and, if you have enough, can essentially do so indefinitely.

It's also taxed at capital gains rates if it's sold, which are much lower than standard income tax rates (15% maximum under US law currently for investments held for at least a year). Capital gains can also be offset by tax losses, which can carry forward forever, or through structured sales.

Or moved to another country (1)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719823)

It's not that hard to get the shares turned over to a holding company owned by the CEO that is based in a tax-friendly country. Maybe they closed this one by now, but there are plenty of tricks to move your money^wassets around in such a way that you don't pay taxes anywhere. Moving the assets around costs you money, but if they are worth enough, it's cheaper than paying taxes. If you move ten times as much as the threshold, you hardly pay more in total, making it way cheaper. People like Ellison are moving way more than ten times the threshold...

Facebook may pay stock taxes of employees (1)

witherstaff (713820) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719953)

I saw a story awhile ago that Facebook increased their line of credit by a few billion to pay the taxes of employees for selling stock. I assume zuckerberg didn't want to pay a billion in taxes. I don't know how that works, you get taxes for making money, the company pays those taxes,which is income from the company, which you end up having to pay taxes on.Of course with over 71,000 pages in the tax code there is probably a loophole to allow this.

Re:Yah You Know, CEOs (1)

Tough Love (215404) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719905)

Ellison's the prettiest. And he smells like pie.

Cowpie?

Re:Yah You Know, CEOs (1)

yuhong (1378501) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719935)

I think Ellison is the co-founder of the company.

MAD. (3, Interesting)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719519)

I don't think this lawsuit is going to be good for anyone but Apple.

Google might get a huge kick in the junk over Dalvik, Oracle might get a huge kick in the junk over whether or not Java is even an open platform or not, and the only ones who look to gain are Apple and maybe Microsoft.

Re:MAD. (2)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39719853)

Actually, it quite looks like Oracle is just going to go down in flames, Google is going to make it out without a scratch (as they should), and the world will go on like it always has.

Re:MAD. (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39720041)

True. Apart from greed, Ellison pursued this to impress his close friend Jobs. Another clueless CEO tricked by Jobs.

Re:MAD. (2)

tconnors (91126) | more than 2 years ago | (#39720105)

Google might get a huge kick in the junk over Dalvik, Oracle might get a huge kick in the junk over whether or not...

Could you please stop using the word "junk"? It's stupid.

Of course the language itself is free. (5, Interesting)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719545)

A language is nothing but a listing of words and how they are used. It is a cataloging of facts.

Facts, as such, are not copyrightable. You can't copyright the listings in a phone book, and neither can you copyright the contents of a header file. Because there is no creative content, and as far as the US is concerned, "sweat of the brow" does not give you copyright.

This is why Oracle is not going after IBM for Iced Tea, because Oracle they know they have nothing and are afraid of what the Nazgul might do in retaliation.

--
BMO

Re:Of course the language itself is free. (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39719633)

Sorry to burst your bubble but most phone books contain fake information in them such that someone copying them would in fact commit copy violation, since it's not all facts. They purposely did this so they could easily tell if others copy them. Same with dictionaries.

Re:Of course the language itself is free. (5, Informative)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719653)

Sigh...

Feist Publications, Inc., v. Rural Telephone Service Co., 499 U.S. 340 (1991),[1] commonly called Feist v. Rural, is an important United States Supreme Court case establishing that information alone without a minimum of original creativity cannot be protected by copyright. In the case appealed, Feist had copied information from Rural's telephone listings to include in its own, after Rural had refused to license the information. Rural sued for copyright infringement. The Court ruled that information contained in Rural's phone directory was not copyrightable and that therefore no infringement existed.

1991. SCOTUS.

This is a rather famous case and anyone with even a passing familiarity with copyright should have read about this at least once.

Sorry to burst *your* bubble.

--
BMO

Re:Of course the language itself is free. (4, Interesting)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719677)

Follow-up

This is also why the astrology book company that was suing the owner of tzdata.dat also had no case and when confronted with ICANN taking over tzdata, they chickened out. Because it's one thing to sue someone who can't afford to even show up in court and another to sue someone who can defend themselves.

--
BMO

Re:Of course the language itself is free. (1)

Serious Callers Only (1022605) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719939)

is an important United States Supreme Court case establishing that information alone without a minimum of original creativity cannot be protected by copyright.

Unfortunately for your argument, languages are far from information alone with a minimum of original creativity. They take a lot of thinking, planning, and creative thought in order to come up with a structure for others to work in. I completely disagree with Oracle's position here, but you can't claim that creating a programming language is like listing facts in a telephone directory, it takes a lot more work and creativity than that and it is not created based on merely observing the world but on copying the good bits of other languages (so Oracle is crazy to even go down this path). It's more like creating a font, a dictionary, or recipes, all of which have *elements* which are copyrightable, but are in this same murky grey area, precisely because they are used by so many other people to create other stuff, which makes it of questionable value to society to lock them up with copyright.

Unfortunately arguments in a courtroom are never about value to society, though you could argue that they should be, as in this sort of common law legal system court decisions (as the one you cite above) *creates and defines the law*.

Re:Of course the language itself is free. (1)

tlhIngan (30335) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719705)

Well, Java might be free, but the patents used to implement the JVM may not be.

It's why Microsoft licenses the patents in question from Sun/Oracle even though they don't do Java anymore. They license it for their .NET CLR.

Now, Sun back then gave anyone with a compatible J2SE implementation (and probably J2EE) a license to the patents for free (because you can't implement a JVM without them).

However, they didn't extend this to J2ME, and reaped tons of money off of licensing for cellphones, blu-ray players, etc. It's a pretty profitable part of Java.

Re:Of course the language itself is free. (2)

bmo (77928) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719745)

You are correct, but it also means that those patents have to be valid.

Just because someone pays for a license fee doesn't mean the patent was valid in the first place. Remember that Microsoft and Sun both gave piles of money to SCO for "SCO Source licenses" when they already had licenses paid for in perpetuity (this was just a fig-leaf for champerty).

--
BMO

Re:Of course the language itself is free. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39719883)

Microsoft didn't get those patents for free. They settled an antitrust lawsuit with Sun by paying them two billion dollars.

Re:Of course the language itself is free. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39719917)

Oracle doesn't claim any patents in this case.
And Dalvik doesn't claim to be a compatible implementation. It is based on Apache's Project Harmony, which Sun did not allow to be certified as Java-compatible.

Re:Of course the language itself is free. (2)

Short Circuit (52384) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719855)

Not that I want to disagree with you on this subject, but there's a difference between a cataloging of unrelated information and information which relates to each other.

A language is not "nothing but a listing of words an how they're used", a language is an idea which is described in a specification and/or implementation. That idea satisfies that "minimum amount of creativity" you need in order to copyright something.

Otherwise, a novel would just be a "narration of fictitious characters and things they did to each other as they resided in the author's mind", and would thus be similarly uncopyrightable.

Re:Of course the language itself is free. (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#39720121)

Unfortunately you can't copyright an idea.

Re:Of course the language itself is free. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39720017)

If you think all software is just a bunch of words, can you honestly say that the bunch of words that make up Git could have been written to work as well, by anyone else?

There really is creativity involved in software, which I think is copyrightable.

Re:Of course the language itself is free. (1)

unixisc (2429386) | more than 2 years ago | (#39720123)

Was the Google counsel's question about the language itself, or things like the Java Virtual Machines, the JDK or JRE? The question sounds very nebulous, the way it was asked.

no, we payed $7.4 billion for it! (1)

hxnwix (652290) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719551)

And I'll be god damned if we're not going to make that money back! The world owes us big time!

Welcome to Java! (1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39719605)

http://skife.org/java/jcp/2010/12/07/the-tck-trap.html

It's actually because... (5, Funny)

XDirtypunkX (1290358) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719629)

It's actually because Larry couldn't understand the word "free" in the context of an Oracle product.

WWSD? (5, Funny)

identity0 (77976) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719641)

What would Stallman testify to?

"You see, when we say 'Free', we mean not just free as in cost, but Free as in Freedom, or as we sometimes say, 'libre software'. This means that software which does not place restrictions on the develope-"
"Yes or no, Mr. Stallman?"
"Well, your honor, to be Free Software means that one follows the guidelines of the Free Software Foundation-"
"Yes or no, Mr. Stallman?"
"To be technically be Free, Java would have to-"
"Yes or no, Mr. Stallman?"
"I'd just like to interject for a mo-"
"The court finds the witness to be guilty... I don't know how, but he is somehow."

Re:WWSD? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39719729)

What would Stallman testify to?

"You see, when we say 'Free', we mean not just free as in cost, but Free as in Freedom, or as we sometimes say, 'libre software'. This means that software which does not place restrictions on the develope-"
"Yes or no, Mr. Stallman?"
"Well, your honor, to be Free Software means that one follows the guidelines of the Free Software Foundation-"
"Yes or no, Mr. Stallman?"
"To be technically be Free, Java would have to-"
"Yes or no, Mr. Stallman?"
"I'd just like to interject for a mo-"
"The court finds the witness to be quite dirty and somewhat smelly."

FTFY

Re:WWSD? (0)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719885)

Calm down dude, we like Stallman for what he does, not for how he smells. He's done a lot. The rest is his own personal business.

Re:WWSD? (3, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39719923)

Actually since most of what he does these days is bitch and moan, I can't say that "we like him for what he does" is entirely accurate either. The GNU/Linux farce is just another example of him desperately trying to remain relevant and another in a long line of embarrassments on his part.

What has Stallman done in the past five years that's of any significance? I'm sure you'll blabber about GPLv3 but if you'll note the community response to that, it's become more divisive than the GPLv2 ever was. If Stallman were really that interested in freedom he'd go with the BSD license, since that actually offers, you know, the most freedom. GPLv3 is all about Stallman's ego and his personal, anti-corporate agenda, not about free software.

TL;DR: for a smelly bastard Stallman is quite washed up.

Re:WWSD? (3, Insightful)

phantomfive (622387) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719989)

What has Stallman done in the past five years that's of any significance?

More than you, Mr AC.

Re:WWSD? (5, Interesting)

dkf (304284) | more than 2 years ago | (#39720135)

If Stallman were really that interested in freedom he'd go with the BSD license, since that actually offers, you know, the most freedom. GPLv3 is all about Stallman's ego and his personal, anti-corporate agenda, not about free software.

The GPL (in its various versions) and the BSD license emphasize different parts of freedom. GPL is particularly about the freedom of those upstream, and the BSD license is particularly about the freedom of those downstream. Unfortunately, it's not possible to maximize both of those at the same time as they're somewhat antagonistic; some things that a downstream participant (a consumer of the licensed code) might want to do will reduce the power of the upstream participant (a producer of the licensed code). A case in point is where the code in question is used as a component (despite not being originally intended as such) and resold as part of a larger product; the freedom for the downstream actor to do that is much more extensively curtailed by the GPL than by the BSD license.

This is really a philosophical difference — you can't reconcile them, and it's really about a statement of values — and it is often counterweighted by a community that uses "soft power" to encourage the other sorts of freedom; patches still flow upstream in BSD-based communities, people still build products in GPL-based communities.

Re:WWSD? (2)

jkrise (535370) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719965)

Good one!

I remembered this conference in Belfast years ago; when an Oracle executive got grilled for describing some products as 'free'....

http://www.linuxjournal.com/article/8941 [linuxjournal.com]

"Owen Hughes, of Oracle, managed not to fall afoul of Stallman. Instead, Hughes angered the entire audience. Working from a
  slick presentation that was more "sales pitch" than "technical
  information", Hughes referred to numerous Oracle products that are
  "free". For each product, the standard pitch was, "I've used this. It's
  really cool. You should take a look at it. Download it for free from...".
  After a handful of comments like this, the audience could contain
  itself no longer. A quick question from the floor asked, "It is free as
  in speech or free as in beer?". Hughes wasn't sure how to answer. A
  voice from the back of the hall called out, "Don't use the word 'free'
  to describe this, use 'cost-less'". It soon became clear that what is
  "free" to Oracle, is not "free" to the vast majority of conference
  attendees. This distinction was the cue for others to ask if Oracle distributed the
  source code to these "free" products. Hughes looked positively shocked
  that someone would ask such a question of him, then meekly replied, "No,
  source code is not included." From the floor, Bruce Perens offered
  Hughes some advice, "You need to clean this up before presenting it to
  an audience like this again.".

Re:WWSD? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39720203)

I would have thought that Stallman's insistence on precisely correct use of terminology would be a perfect fit for a courtroom.

In Soviet Russia (0)

Roachie (2180772) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719671)

Ellison is not sure if HE is free!

Re:In Soviet Russia (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39719763)

Have you ever in your life posted a comment worth reading?

Re:In Soviet Russia (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39719881)

All internet memes, like the people who quote Monty Python's dead parrot skit, should eventually disappear totally, and that's a good thing. Please do whatever you can to accelerate this process. The "soviet Russia" joke ceased to be funny a long, long time ago.

Re:In Soviet Russia (1)

symbolset (646467) | more than 2 years ago | (#39720149)

Let me explain the eternal september....

Ellison not prepared? WTF? (2)

Trip6 (1184883) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719717)

If the core of the lawsuit is over the free parts of Java, are you telling me Ellison was not even prepped enough to answer that question? Who will get fired over that I wonder?

This is legal, not "stupid CEO" (1)

dutchwhizzman (817898) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719875)

It is about violating patents. Any damages that result of that possible violation should have a monetary value attributed to them, if you want the violator to be liable to pay you damages. You are suddenly looking at the legal definition of "free" in order to assess the damages.

The trick question here is that even if you open the source code up and allow anyone to download and use the compiled product, it could still not be "free". There could be a profit model around the right to put the name of the product on other products using the technology, or the right to redistribute the product, or the right to claim your hardware is compatible with it. These are just examples, there are more business models to make money from open source software that can be labeled "free" in specific cases.

This means that there is no binary answer to the question if Java is free, without a lot of context added to it. Ellison's answer is the only right one in his position, since the question was phrased in such a way that he'd be damned if he answered yes or no.

Re:This is legal, not "stupid CEO" (3, Informative)

robbak (775424) | more than 2 years ago | (#39720119)

No, this is not about patents. The arguments on patents come later. The patent arguments, when they start, have been trimmed down to one patent that has been ruled invalid, but the time period to appeal that rejection has not yet expired; and another that has had its scope trimmed back, which, together with some admissions made by Oracle, Google argues, clears Android of infringement.

At the moment, this is only about copyrights. Oracle claims that, when they Sun released documentation about the APIs used in Java, the copyright on them prevents anyone else making a clean-room alternate implementation of them. Oh, and that GPLing it all, congratulating Google for implementing those APIs, and publicly assisting Harmony and GNU Classpath( both alternate clean-room implementations ) doesn't affect that at all. The rest of us are just shaking our heads and wondering if they will ever reveal the directions to the universe where this might be the case.

Blu ray (2)

Grindalf (1089511) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719737)

Blu Ray uses this as part of it's firmware. It will be interesting to see what happens if the licence conditions change and it has to be removed with an update that installs automatically from a new blu ray disk. Many other devices are this precarious too! As are many other US developed software environments. In general, we could all break because bad licences exist in the united states that were not legislated against.

How should he have answered? (1)

The_mad_linguist (1019680) | more than 2 years ago | (#39719903)

I suppose the most accurate way to answer is "it depends what you mean by 'Java' and what you mean by 'free'", but that makes it sound like you're being a weasel.

Re:How should he have answered? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39720049)

But Ellison _is_ a weasel.

Shazbot! (0)

locopuyo (1433631) | more than 2 years ago | (#39720053)

[VGRD]
[VGRW]
[VGS]

An Oracle joke for the youngsters here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 2 years ago | (#39720133)

Gosh, just can't pass up a chance to post this one. They should have asked Larry this....

Q: What hardware platform does Oracle run best on?

A: A 35mm slide projector!

(Even though I am only in my 50's I realize I am suddenly an IT "old timer" - we got a lot of mileage out of that one back in the 80's...)

- TWR, Los Angeles

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