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Oracle and the End of Programming As We Know It

Soulskill posted about 2 years ago | from the unbounded-can-of-worms dept.

Oracle 577

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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Mr. Wall, please sit down... (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39860193)

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

Re:Mr. Wall, please sit down... (5, Insightful)

masternerdguy (2468142) | about 2 years ago | (#39860231)

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

Re:Mr. Wall, please sit down... (5, Informative)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 2 years ago | (#39860373)

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...

Re:Mr. Wall, please sit down... (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 2 years ago | (#39860495)

Not att. Attachmate. They got it with Novell. And who owns Attachmate? Curiouser and curiouser.

Re:Mr. Wall, please sit down... (5, Funny)

gbjbaanb (229885) | about 2 years ago | (#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 :)

Re:Mr. Wall, please sit down... (1)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about 2 years ago | (#39860451)

The answer to this is to buy enough judges to assert copyright on the Roman alphabet.
Then you go to Oracle and tell them byotches: "Lay by your dish."

Re:Mr. Wall, please sit down... (5, Insightful)

dubbreak (623656) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

And with that (4, Funny)

lightknight (213164) | about 2 years ago | (#39860197)

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

Re:And with that (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39860207)

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

Re:And with that (5, Insightful)

Edsj (1972476) | about 2 years ago | (#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".

Re:And with that (0)

smitty_one_each (243267) | about 2 years ago | (#39860465)

Slashdot leaves me feeling kinda stoned every visit.

Re:And with that (5, Informative)

whoever57 (658626) | about 2 years ago | (#39860647)

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.

Mutually Assured Destruction (4, Insightful)

Jeng (926980) | about 2 years ago | (#39860201)

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

Re:Mutually Assured Destruction (2)

MozeeToby (1163751) | about 2 years ago | (#39860357)

Wasn't there a US president who's strategy during the cold war was to convince the Russians that he was borderline suicidally insane? To the point of having the ambassadors and other representatives tell their Russian counterparts how terrified they were of what he might do?

Re:Mutually Assured Destruction (5, Funny)

Narcocide (102829) | about 2 years ago | (#39860569)

Ronald Regan was accused of/praised for such tactics. As it turns out though it was the early stages of Alzheimer's Disease.

Re:Mutually Assured Destruction (1)

Narcocide (102829) | about 2 years ago | (#39860587)

Reagan. Sorry.

Re:Mutually Assured Destruction (1)

jsh1972 (1095519) | about 2 years ago | (#39860595)

Nixon.

Re:Mutually Assured Destruction (0, Offtopic)

Mister Whirly (964219) | about 2 years ago | (#39860661)

Yeah, George W. Bush. He thought it was working pretty well until it was pointed out to him that the Cold War was over.

Oracle vs. the rest of the World (0)

Tiffsterr (779130) | about 2 years ago | (#39860209)

Do we need another reason to despise Oracle?

Re:Oracle vs. the rest of the World (5, Insightful)

MightyMartian (840721) | about 2 years ago | (#39860353)

I think the issue is more that we should despise US copyright law.

Other examples (0)

StripedCow (776465) | about 2 years ago | (#39860211)

And think about wine and reactOS, both using the Windows API.

And what about Java itself? It borrows a lot from C/C++.

Re:Other examples (4, Interesting)

lightknight (213164) | about 2 years ago | (#39860391)

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

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

Re:Other examples (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39860541)

"The good news is that programmers will suddenly be worth that much more (as no one will want the liability of being one)"

Nonsense. The liability will be on the employer, not the hired code monkey.

Re:Other examples (2)

Narcocide (102829) | about 2 years ago | (#39860659)

Aaaaaaah! All that time spent learning Commodore Basic may yet pay off!

Licensing? (4, Interesting)

webmosher (322834) | about 2 years ago | (#39860221)

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's good for the goose... (5, Interesting)

sqlrob (173498) | about 2 years ago | (#39860225)

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

Re:What's good for the goose... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39860255)

MAN that's an amazing thought. Would certainly serve Oracle right.

Re:What's good for the goose... (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39860397)

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

Re:What's good for the goose... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39860655)

SQL would only matter if Oracle did not license SQL and other relational database technology from IBM.

Re:What's good for the goose... (3, Interesting)

lightknight (213164) | about 2 years ago | (#39860285)

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

Re:What's good for the goose... (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:What's good for the goose... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39860533)

From what I remember, courts forced Intel to sell AMD a license.

Re:What's good for the goose... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39860329)

AMD had a license for the x86 processors, (e.g. 386). That's why Intel changed the name of their processors to Pentium.

Re:What's good for the goose... (1)

Tridus (79566) | about 2 years ago | (#39860393)

That and you couldn't trademark "486" as it turned out, so Cyrix started putting out stuff like the "6x86" which sounded better due to bigger numbers. Pentium is a trademark-capable name.

Re:What's good for the goose... (3, Insightful)

scharkalvin (72228) | about 2 years ago | (#39860433)

Well Intel won't mess with AMD over this because THEY took the AMD-64 instruction set and added it to THEIR processors. So both companies have a bit of each other's copyright in their products.

Re:What's good for the goose... (5, Informative)

Jeng (926980) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:What's good for the goose... (0)

Narcocide (102829) | about 2 years ago | (#39860673)

What AMD did was an improvement.

Re:What's good for the goose... (2)

djdanlib (732853) | about 2 years ago | (#39860667)

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

And this is why... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:And this is why... (1)

LifesABeach (234436) | about 2 years ago | (#39860653)

I'm kind of curious, did Oracle copyright the API calls after they were allowed them to rome free in the wild?

KOAD _ PLEASE RESPOND (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39860235)

your mom's only furry when it rains

Hyperbolic Headline is Worst EVER! (2)

GodfatherofSoul (174979) | about 2 years ago | (#39860241)

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

Bunch of BUNK! (4, Insightful)

Svartalf (2997) | about 2 years ago | (#39860245)

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! (5, Informative)

OddJobBob (1965628) | about 2 years ago | (#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! (1)

fnj (64210) | about 2 years ago | (#39860421)

And the jury has the perfect right to throw this stupid judge's stupid "instruction" into the dung heap where such instructions belong. OK, so that's a little strong. They are perfectly free to consider the instruction and REJECT it. So there still may not be any decision that has to be overturned.

Re:Bunch of BUNK! (5, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#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! (5, Insightful)

Daniel_Staal (609844) | about 2 years ago | (#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! (5, Informative)

MBCook (132727) | about 2 years ago | (#39860483)

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.

Re:Bunch of BUNK! (2)

Talennor (612270) | about 2 years ago | (#39860617)

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?

The judge hasn't decided anything yet. (5, Informative)

pavon (30274) | about 2 years ago | (#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.

Re:The judge hasn't decided anything yet. (1)

alannon (54117) | about 2 years ago | (#39860583)

This whole thing seems rather silly. First of all, yes, clearly Google copied the Java API. How can they even begin to deny that? Secondly, there is a crapload of legal precedence that indicates that an API is not legally protected by copyright.

What am I missing here??

Re:Bunch of BUNK! (1)

mfwitten (1906728) | about 2 years ago | (#39860567)

What the hell does "purely functional" mean?

Everything in the Universe is purely functional. Everything is information.

It is a creative description to convey the notion of an algorithmic construct (such as an iterative loop) by using a particular identifier ("for" or "while" or "foreach"). It is a creative description to convey the notion of a particular function by using a particular identifier ("getWidgetAndSendNotification"), or a variable by using a particular identifier ("the_man_has_a_green_hat").

These are creative choices that people are making in order to transmit information. Why shouldn't it be covered by copyright? In fact, that's exactly why you can claim copyright on code that you write: You are transmitting information in a paricular way (I chose "the_man_has_a_green_hat"; if you want copyright at all, then you should allow me to force you to choose another description, such as "there_is_a_green_hat_on_his_head"). Hence, copyright on an API seems quite plausible.

Of course, the fact that we feel like we need something such as copyright is a symptom of the despicableness of the human condition and of human nature.

Re:Bunch of BUNK! (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39860631)

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

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

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

Re:Bunch of BUNK! (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39860675)

The judge is not ruling that APIs are copyright-able. He is telling the jury to assume that they are. Oracle is asserting that Google violated their copyright, and that APIs are copyright-able. If the jury finds Google is in violation of Oracle's copyright, the judge will then have to decide whether the APIs were in fact copyright-able or not. If they come back with a verdict that does not find Google in violation nothing more needs be done, we can move on to the patent portion of the case.

Somewhat ironically (5, Interesting)

squiggleslash (241428) | about 2 years ago | (#39860249)

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...

Re:Somewhat ironically (4, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 2 years ago | (#39860443)

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.

Re:Somewhat ironically (2)

Gwala (309968) | about 2 years ago | (#39860535)

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.

Re:Somewhat ironically (1)

H0p313ss (811249) | about 2 years ago | (#39860513)

... from what I hear, C Sharp is a very nice programming language...

It is, unfortunately it's a case of "nice video, shame about the song". (But then Java is sort of the opposite.)

I am yet to find a language that really makes me happy, maybe I'm going about this all wrong...

Re:Somewhat ironically (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39860633)

C# is just a knock off of Java.

Re:Somewhat ironically (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39860679)

from what I hear, C Sharp is a very nice programming language...

I heartily agree.

Microsoft swept just about all the I/O BS into .NET functions so you can write apps quicker istead of being bogged down in I/O details...

Look....
[pardon the formatting.... ^^; ]


http://www.dotnetperls.com/file-copy
using System;
using System.IO;

class Program
{
        static void Main()
        { // Figure 1 // Copy one file to a non-existent location
        File.Copy("file-a.txt", "file-new.txt"); // Display the contents of both files
        Console.WriteLine(File.ReadAllText("file-a.txt"));
        Console.WriteLine(File.ReadAllText("file-new.txt"));
        }
}

vs.


http://rajkishor09.hubpages.com/hub/File-Copy-Program-in-C-Language

#include
#include
#include
  void main(int arg,char *arr[])
{
      FILE *fs,*ft;
char ch;
    clrscr();

if(arg!=3)
{
    printf("Argument Missing ! Press key to exit.");
      getch();
  exit(0);

      }

    fs = fopen(arr[1],"r");

    if(fs==NULL)
      {
    printf("Cannot open source file ! Press key to exit.");
    getch();
exit(0);

    }
      ft = fopen(arr[2],"w");
    if(ft==NULL)
{
      printf("Cannot copy file ! Press key to exit.");
        fclose(fs);
      getch();
      exit(0);
      }

  while(1)
      {
    ch = getc(fs);
      if(ch==EOF)
{
    break;
    }
        else
    putc(ch,ft);
  }

      printf("File copied succesfully!");
      fclose(fs);
  fclose(ft);
}

I'd rather use C# than C or C++ if I were given a choice.... :)

We're all screwed (5, Insightful)

cfulmer (3166) | about 2 years ago | (#39860261)

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.

Between this kind of thing and patent trolling (5, Insightful)

crazyjj (2598719) | about 2 years ago | (#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."

Re:Between this kind of thing and patent trolling (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39860305)

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.

Only in America and American colonies. The rest of the world isn't that dumb.

Re:Between this kind of thing and patent trolling (1)

H0p313ss (811249) | about 2 years ago | (#39860523)

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.

Only in America and American colonies. The rest of the world isn't that dumb.

That's not fair, we're all dumb, just in different ways.

Re:Between this kind of thing and patent trolling (0)

fnj (64210) | about 2 years ago | (#39860529)

Only in America and American colonies. The rest of the world isn't that dumb.

Hence there is hope, because a brain drain could then ensue in which American talent flees that repressive hell hole for places beyond the reach of its bought and paid for laws. Then America could either realize it has tightened a noose around its own flabby throat and mend its asinine ways, or it could simply become irrelevant to the real world of progress.

Re:Between this kind of thing and patent trolling (1)

lightknight (213164) | about 2 years ago | (#39860657)

To quote the BOFH here, we, as a country, have ridden the 'Tower of Turd' to its lowest level, and are still hitting the button for down.

Re:Between this kind of thing and patent trolling (5, Insightful)

crazyjj (2598719) | about 2 years ago | (#39860603)

Considering how effective the U.S. government has been at "persuading" countries around the world to implement carbon copies of its IP legislation (not to mention getting them to extradite their own citizens for U.S. IP violations), I wouldn't get too comfortable if I were you.

Re:Between this kind of thing and patent trolling (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39860517)

Your feeling might be constrained to only US companies. Other companies, operating outside the US jurisdiction, might not be as cautious as you predict.

I've heard this before. In the 80s (3, Insightful)

msobkow (48369) | about 2 years ago | (#39860267)

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.

What about apps using WIN32 API or .NET? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39860273)

Wouldn't Microsoft be able to go after anyone using their API without a license?

Enough is enough (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39860287)

I will not stand for this!

Re:Enough is enough (0)

Un pobre guey (593801) | about 2 years ago | (#39860399)

Please! Have a seat! Make yourself comfortable.

Defend it or lose it (1)

metalwheaties (166393) | about 2 years ago | (#39860289)

Isn't there some legal precedent for copyright not having been defended over a period of time making the copyright moot? Clearly people have been implementing Java APIs for 1000s of years without law suits from Oracle or Sun. It is only recently that Oracle has decided to go after Google (specifically acquiring Sun to do so?) that these suits have been brought. Doesn't it make the suits baseless simply because of the fact of Sun/Oracle's ignoring the issue for so many years previous?

Re:Defend it or lose it (1)

Imagix (695350) | about 2 years ago | (#39860331)

You're thinking Trademark.

Re:Defend it or lose it (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 years ago | (#39860379)

Isn't there some legal precedent for copyright not having been defended over a period of time making the copyright moot?

No. You are thinking of Trademarks.

Clearly people have been implementing Java APIs for 1000s of years without law suits from Oracle or Sun

Thousands? Really? Think about that for a moment,. will you?

Re:Defend it or lose it (2)

TheRaven64 (641858) | about 2 years ago | (#39860549)

What, you mean your CV doesn't list 1,500 years experience with J2EE?

Re:Defend it or lose it (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39860627)

Don't you remember the cave paintings? You know, the ones that extend JPanel and override paintComponent? Java predates the bible, but it didn't support generics then.

A little alarmist there (1)

eln (21727) | about 2 years ago | (#39860293)

The type of "reimplementing" Google is alleged to have done has always been illegal unless the license terms of the software said otherwise. Had Google done a clean room reimplementation then they would have been in the clear, but instead they allegedly lifted code directly from Oracle's (copyrighted) APIs and used it without a license.

Many (most/all?) of the other languages mentioned have highly permissive licenses that expressly allow the sort of thing Google did. In many cases, the copyrighted portion of the language is little more than a set of standards to be followed, with the actual method for following those standards left up to whoever wants to write a compiler/interpreter for it.. Java has a much more restrictive license and always has, even when it was owned by Sun. Sun just didn't bother going after these sorts of suits. Of course, they didn't have the most powerful Internet company in the world making billions of dollars off a reimplementation of their code, either, at least not until they were already hemmorhaging money too fast to do anything about it.

Re:A little alarmist there (1)

Un pobre guey (593801) | about 2 years ago | (#39860369)

How much money is Google making from Android?

Re:A little alarmist there -- read the evidence (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39860559)

A little mis-informed there--Google did a clean-room implementation of the code--yet they got sued--for implementing the java API and package structures, not for copying code. If you take a look at the differences between the kloc's, (Android ~15million lines, Java 5 ~2.8million lines), you have a hard time concluding that Google didn't do a clean-room implementation of Java. Since they couldn't call it Java, Google didn't--and therefore the product they produced is known as Android, in spite of the fact that it is very Java-like. Google deserves a win here and Oracle deserves a big loss for this foolishness.

Re:A little alarmist there (2)

msbhvn (1162657) | about 2 years ago | (#39860681)

The "reimplementing" of the API is not the subject here. The use of the same API is. Google does claim they performed a clean room reimplementation. Oracle tried to say Google stole their code, but after building custom software to look for copied code they found a single 9 line function that they claimed was copied out of 15 million lines of code. Having nowhere to go with the code copying claim they came up with the 'But you're using my API!' nonsense. Many APIs have been reimplemented all over the place, win32 alone has been a few times.. this has always been assumed to be okay.

More fundamental (2)

Todd Knarr (15451) | about 2 years ago | (#39860307)

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] ?

Re:More fundamental (1)

fnj (64210) | about 2 years ago | (#39860597)

One word. One phrase, rather. UEFI. It's not a reimplementation of the prehistoric BIOS; it's a complete replacement. Legacy support might have to go (and that's a BAD thing??).

Confused. (1)

jimmerz28 (1928616) | about 2 years ago | (#39860347)

What exactly is implied by a "copyrightable API"?

Does this mean that we can copyright an API in a broad generic manner? i.e. a "web service that returns a JSON object of apps in an app store".

Or is the specific manner in which the API fetches the information the part that is copyrightable?

What is the role of a judge? (2)

Un pobre guey (593801) | about 2 years ago | (#39860349)

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.

Re:What is the role of a judge? (1)

lightknight (213164) | about 2 years ago | (#39860573)

Then we need to, heh, elect a few judges who understand technology.

Since I imagine most programmers, well aware of the problems with making any kind of change or ruling with regards to code (let alone the legal code) and are somewhat averse to placing themselves in that unfortunate position, we're going to need to make some sacrifices.

Therefore, I nominate Commander Taco & friends, plus Un pobre guey, to said unhappy positions as judges of technological imprudence. Here are your nerf gravels with +10 facepalm. ^_^

Would this apply to wine? (1)

nurbles (801091) | about 2 years ago | (#39860355)

If implementing new libraries'n'stuff using someone else's APIs is a problem, it seems to me that a thing like wine and maybe even virtual machine software might need to pay license fees to the originators. Of course, the wine project may have an API license agreement with Microsoft, or Microsoft may have explicitly made their APIs freely available (or whatever applies here) but somehow, that doesn't sound like the Microsoft I've heard about over the years.

If API's become copyrightable... (1)

The123king (2395060) | about 2 years ago | (#39860367)

what will happen to the various UNIX-like operating systems, like Linux, the various BSD's, Solaris, Mac OS X etc? And what about WINE? ReactOS? Haiku? I guess these will all owe royalties too? This is a very dangerous road to go down, and if it does come to pass, the world will become a very different place, both legally and physically, and will most likely destroy open-source as we know it. But this is America we're talking about, they're fine relying on Microsoft Windows.

The jury decides facts; the judge the law (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39860405)

Whether APIs are protectable is a (not fully resolved) question of the law, and hence the judge's prerogative to decide. Most of us groklavians believe the judge is simply making sure there will be no retrial. If the jury says no copyright violation even under the assumption you can copyright APIs, then he doesn't have to make a decision about whether APIs may be protected by copyright. Surely whatever decision he makes will be appealed, so the jury might be able to make that portion of the case go away.

TFA greatly overstates the case (1)

DragonWriter (970822) | about 2 years ago | (#39860423)

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.

Many of these are wrong, because many of the examples there are not done "without a license". Many of them are licensed reimplementations of open source originals that share more than just APIs with the original. AFAIK, Rubinius, JRuby, and IronRuby aren't clean-room reimplementations of Ruby, they are parallel open source projects that use code (including standard library code) from the mainline Ruby project (and I'm pretty sure that code moves both directions.)

Typical over the top slashdot article (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39860425)

The judge told the jury to assume they were copyrightable to decide whether the cited instances were fair use or infringement. The judge reserved the question of whether they were copyrightable to himself to decide.

This judge is a lot smarter than the poster.

For those not familiar with the case... (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39860429)

The judge told the jury to assume that APIs were copyrightable for purposes of their deliberation, for one reason, and one reason only.

The judge determined that whether APIs are copyrightable or not is a question of *law* not *fact*, and therefore was an issue properly decided by the judge. If the judge deliberates and determines that APIs are *not* copyrightable, then it doesn't matter what decision the jury makes. If he decides they *are*, then the jury's verdict will actually come into play.

Either (or both) decisions on the matter are open to appeal if Google (or Sun) disagrees with the decision(s) in question.

What ir Oracle loses? (0)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 years ago | (#39860435)

What will it mean for Google? What will it mean for Oracle? What will it mean for Java?

Oracle halfway wants to lose (1)

sandytaru (1158959) | about 2 years ago | (#39860611)

If the judge rules in Google's favor, that means Oracle doesn't have to pay a lot of other people money (for non-Java codes and APIs that they use.) If the judge rules in Oracle's favor, other people have to pay a lot of money to Oracle. Either way Oracle wins, either by protecting their own properties or getting free reign to use everybody else's properties.

Jury Nullification (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39860469)

Thank God you're still able to vote with your heart and apply Jury Nullification.

Sucks that most all jurors aren't fully informed, but it only takes one per jury.

Could this backfire against Oracle? (5, Insightful)

walterbyrd (182728) | about 2 years ago | (#39860473)

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

Sky not falling (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39860497)

Whenever a trial like this comes up there are people talking about the worst possible case which could follow. Remember when SCO's claims had the media screaming that people using Linux at home could get sued? Regardless of which way this trial goes, it's not going to be the end of programming and it's not going to suddenly bring Python or C++ or other languages down. This is just silly.

Amendment 28 (1)

cpu6502 (1960974) | about 2 years ago | (#39860575)

Strike the clause "To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries."

Alternate amendment 28:
Strike the clause "securing for limited Times" and replace with "securing for one generation". Strike the clause "exclusive right" and replace with "limited & revocable monopoly".

Its like copyrighting english (2)

faazshift (1008651) | about 2 years ago | (#39860577)

To say a programming language is copyrightable is, to me, the very same as saying a spoken language is copyrightable. Imagine if you were to be exacted a fee for every english word you speak. Wouldn't that be ridiculous? Now, I can see a greedy company tolerably being able to require licensing for their specific interpreter or compiler (though this idea seems a bit ridiculous to me personally), but it makes no sense that the syntax should be allowed to be under such requirements. If this were allowed to pass through the legal system and continue on the same course, it could perhaps lend to the possibility of a day in the future where the very way you word your sentence could fall under copyright, and thus incur legal penalties or fees.

not a valid comparison (1)

updog (608318) | about 2 years ago | (#39860599)

Python and Ruby have been GPL from the beginning, unlike Java. I think that makes reimplementation of the API certainly legal, since using the code directly is legal as well. The "end of programming as we know it" seems like a stretch - maybe the "end of Java as we know it". Or am I missing something here?
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