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Oracle Vs. Google and the Right To Use APIs

samzenpus posted about 2 years ago | from the my-precious-code dept.

Android 155

jfruh writes "Even as an EU court rules that APIs can't be copyrighted, tech observers are waiting for the Oracle v. Google trial jury to rule on the same question under U.S. law. Blogger Brian Proffitt spoke with Groklaw's Pamela Jones on the issue, and her take is that a victory for Oracle would be bad news for developers. Essentially, Oracle is claiming that, while an individual API might not be copyrightable, the collection of APIs needed to use a language is. Such a decision would, among other things, make Java's open source nature essentially meaningless, and would have lots of implications for any programming language you can name."

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155 comments

Can search results be copyrighted? (0, Troll)

CriticalAnalysis (2631225) | about 2 years ago | (#39884309)

What really reeks me is Google's double standards on these issues. Yes, APIs should not be copyrightable. But here we have a company that is trying to copyright search results listings. Listings that are built from other people's content!

I understand Google's need to protect their business, but the view they're trying to make of themselves is cowardly. Google wants everyone to look upon them as some kind of white knights and better-than-you company. Yet they do exactly the same thing when it's their business on the table.

It's not only some vague Terms of Service or other mainly uncontrolled and unforceable terms either. Google will ban you from accessing their service the instant their algorithm detects it's not an actual human being making searches and viewing their ads. Even if you behave nicely with your scripts and rate-limit them not to hit Google's servers badly. On the other hand, Google has no problem hitting your servers and causing more than $1000 fees for the owner for nothing.

Before Google starts attacking everyone else about these issues, maybe they should rethink their position. Otherwise it's just bullshit. And bad bullshit too, because they are trying to hide the fact.

Re:Can search results be copyrighted? (0)

protocolture (2460898) | about 2 years ago | (#39884417)

I think we should let them. We have precedent in regards to look and feel, so that isn't an issues. So what are they trying to copyright? If someone was to sue google for taking content off of their website and using it in a search results page, google would claim fair use. So google wants to claim the order of a list of fair use snippets and links as intellectual property. That does not bode well.

Re:Can search results be copyrighted? (0)

protocolture (2460898) | about 2 years ago | (#39884477)

Let me explain, I think we should let them because the precedent would allow meta search firms to copyright stuff they stole off of google as long as it is fair use. Which would probably sound a wakeup call to all of these companies copyrighting everything possible that if they change the rules to suit themselves, they also have to play by those rules.

Slashdot Mandatory Notice (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39885165)

ANNOUNCEMENT

A team from Burson Marsteller on behalf of Microsoft has joined the discussion, and will be moderating and directing it to ensure Microsoft's interests are well served.

They will be using a number of sockpuppets, including Bonch, Sharklaser, CriticalAnalysis, Overly Critical Guy, TechLA, TechNY, TechCar and many others.

Their presence in this discussion indicates:

1. Microsoft is concerned that free and undirected speech about this topic would be undesirable for them
2. All postings must be considered suspect.
3. All moderation must be considered suspect.
4. Anyone participating in this discussion tacitly agrees that reputation management and astroturf is acceptable.

Please avoid posting anything of value in this discussion. Treat all who do post with contempt and mockery.

Re:Can search results be copyrighted? (4, Insightful)

pseudofrog (570061) | about 2 years ago | (#39884437)

We all know you're OverlyCriticalGuy / FooTech / CmdrPony / etc...

Google not allowing bots to access their site is in no way comparable to Oracle's claims. It's absurd on several levels.

Also, you must be one hell of a typist. You posted your reply one minute after the story was posted.

Re:Can search results be copyrighted? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39884471)

You, too, can begin composing a reply based on the Firehose.

Re:Can search results be copyrighted? (1)

exomondo (1725132) | about 2 years ago | (#39884561)

slashdot.org/firehose.pl

not hard.

Re:Can search results be copyrighted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39884739)

Yes, yes, just compose a reply to every relevant submission in the firehose and the hit F5 every minute to see when one of them gets published, and then quickly copy and paste. This moves our friend InterestingTechFellaIn140Bytes straight out of "troll" to "insane obsessive troll" territory.

Or just get a subscription account, let it sit in the shade and show you the future articles, and let a freshly made sockpuppet take a hit to the karma after a bit of trolling.

Re:Can search results be copyrighted? (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39884479)

There's a certain amount of irony here, considering your username. An API is an interface to use something. Search results are the product of its use. There is a before-and-after, or cause-and-effect, type relationship between the two. Claiming that an API is not copyrightable has nothing to do with whether a custom, specific product produced by an API is copyrightable. It's non sequitur. Slashdot gives me an interface to type in this comment, but that does not mean that Slashdot owns what I type. One is an API to use it, and the other is the product of the API.

Your argument falls flat because it was not well constructed. Assuming it was, your second claim also falls short. Google does is not required to allow bots to use their services. Complaining that bots are being blocked doesn't hold weight. Claiming that it's a double standard because Google can hit your servers is irrelevant. Server owners have the ability to detect bots and prevent them from scanning their sites too. Google actually uses a specific user agent and has reverse DNS that resolves to google.com so that you know for sure that it's a Google bot scanning your site. Personally, I don't think anyone would want to prevent Google from scanning their web sites, and companies have failed because Google elects to stop scanning (delisting them). But if you wanted to, you certainly could. Google wouldn't complain.

Although your arguments are poorly constructed and contain multiple logical fallacies, your hostility against the delisting is interesting. Were you personally affected? Why would anyone really want to use a different search engine if that engine is simply going to show Google results? Where's the value add? Wouldn't it make more sense to nerdrage against Google's privacy policies, wardriving, de facto age discrimination, or something like that? Why pick bot filtering?

Re:Can search results be copyrighted? (3, Insightful)

ADRA (37398) | about 2 years ago | (#39884487)

robots.txt grumpy, if you don't want to join the link economy.

Google, apple, or any company, organization, etc.. If API's are implicitely copyrighted by definition, all open standards are suspect, all transparency, who the hell knows what happens with the concept of fair use.

The other thought was that Google's web page has never has been an API. Its an end user access mechanism to their service (which hosts a collection of useful information). If you want to use their service, you abide by their TOS which specifically forbits scraping. I've never signed an NDA for using a programming language, but it bet if I did, I'd be just as liable for breaking the terms of use as any Google scraper would be for abusing Google's service.

Re:Can search results be copyrighted? (0, Troll)

CriticalAnalysis (2631225) | about 2 years ago | (#39884565)

There's times when robots.txt just doesn't work, like this story of how Google Docs attacked the poor guys Amazon servers and caused fees of almost $200 per hour [behind-the...-lines.com] .

I have also never explicitly accepted any TOS of Google. Just because I access their service via my browsers provided search tool does it make me accept their TOS? I don't think so. For that matter many Terms of Services clauses that work in the US don't work in the EU, where I reside. But that's beside the point - I'm just saying that Google should do the same thing with their services and not try to hinder people's access to them or try to copyright search listings. Maybe then I would take them seriously when they complain about other companies stuff.

Re:Can search results be copyrighted? (4, Insightful)

pseudofrog (570061) | about 2 years ago | (#39884657)

From the article you link to:

So, all this bandwidth waste was triggered by my own stupidity. I asked Google to download all the images to create the thumbnails in Google Spreadsheet. Talking about shooting myself in the foot. I launched the Google crawler myself.

You're using Google's service, so you have to play by their rules. They have no obligation to give you their data in the exact way you want.

Again, it's incredible stupid to compare this to Oracle's actions -- there's no basis whatsoever for you to make this connection. You seem to be arguing that because Google won't let you get your way they shouldn't be able to defend themselves when sued. That, or something equally childish and inane.

Re:Can search results be copyrighted? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39884509)

*cough* API *cough* https://developers.google.com/custom-search/v1/overview

Re:Can search results be copyrighted? (-1, Troll)

CriticalAnalysis (2631225) | about 2 years ago | (#39884587)

That's actually kind of funny, because if you want API access to Google's search results you have to pay them. Now Oracle is saying that Google should pay them for using Oracle's APIs. Kettle, meet pot.

Re:Can search results be copyrighted? (2)

vakuona (788200) | about 2 years ago | (#39884677)

Not the same. You use Google's API to access their service. Very different from a programming API. Google has no obligation to let you access their services for free, they choose to do so, and also choose to make those people who want to access their services programmatically pay for the privilege.

Re:Can search results be copyrighted? (4, Insightful)

pseudofrog (570061) | about 2 years ago | (#39884687)

You don't pay to use the API, you pay to access their data on their servers. You must know this.

Re:Can search results be copyrighted? (2)

cmdr_tofu (826352) | about 2 years ago | (#39884735)

This is a little different. You are free to implement your own search engine and implement a Google RESTful API but do not actually hit google.com. If Google objected to (or demanded payment) for you using their API independent of their services, then it would be the same thing.

Re:Can search results be copyrighted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39885523)

If google wins you are free to obtain their source code and get all their public functions, copy them entirely, and simply implement them and start your own search engine company to directly compete against them using their own Apis against them.

Re:Can search results be copyrighted? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39885467)

Astroturfer, why don't you just shut the fuck up and die? You're nothing but a low life shill for the most corrupt company in the world.

Re:Can search results be copyrighted? (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39884569)

The parent is NOT an insightful post. A troll, maybe.

What Oracle is trying to claim is a new flavor of copyright on previous areas that have been declared by judges as not copyrightable. The key is, not copyrightable. Oracle is making the big reach here.

Stop trying to conflate a completely different issue here because you don't like Google.

Sun also seemed to use similar tricks in the past, IIRC, against Tomcat, JBoss, and at least one open source implementation of Java on Linux that Sun did not want to be run against their compatibility test suite, etc. In time, good sense prevailed, in that Tomcat became the blessed reference implementation for a Java web app server, the OS Java clone was allowed to run against Sun's tests after much pressuring by various groups (and Sun actually put some effort into Linux-based versions of Java ecosystem, etc). But at least they didn't have the temerity to outright claim "copyright infringement" back then. It was as ludicrous then as it is now.

Or we can laugh when they win and are sued ... (4, Insightful)

Barbara, not Barbie (721478) | about 2 years ago | (#39885329)

After all, if all APIs are copyrightable, IBM wants to talk to Oracle about royalties for SQL.

And Dennis Ritchie's estate would like to talk to them about all the royalties they need to cough up for using the c standard library.

And Bjarne Stroustrup and Bell Labs want to talk to them about royalties for using classes, and the whole dot syntax, and the whole of Java being just a poor man's c++.

There is absolutely no way that Oracle is going to win this one - even they know that the immediate consequences would be disasterous for them, as the whole world drops Java for anything else.

Re:Or we can laugh when they win and are sued ... (1)

Sancho (17056) | about 2 years ago | (#39885481)

There is absolutely no way that Oracle is going to win this one - even they know that the immediate consequences would be disasterous for them, as the whole world drops Java for anything else.

Maybe. Oracle certainly thought Google would settle pre-trial, meaning no ruling on the subject would be made. Persisting after going to trial, though, is insane if they really understand the full implications you suggest.

More realistically, they're going to say that the copyright only applies to implementations of the API, not usage of the API. In other words, to be in violation, you would have to create a system which implements the API. Merely programming using the API and targeting a legal implementation wouldn't be sufficient. It's not just fair use--its regular use. It's what the API is there for. The API is not there for creating a different, compatible JVM.

Remember, the issue is that Google used the Java specification to create a competing virtual machine, not that Google used the Java APIs to create a Java application.

Re:Or we can laugh when they win and are sued ... (1)

Barbara, not Barbie (721478) | about 2 years ago | (#39885751)

Remember, the issue is that Google used the Java specification to create a competing virtual machine, not that Google used the Java APIs to create a Java application.

There are plenty of competing virtual machines. IBM made one, Kaffe is another. GNU classpath is yet another. BTW - dalvik is not a java virtual machine. It can't run Java programs.

Re:Or we can laugh when they win and are sued ... (1)

Sancho (17056) | about 2 years ago | (#39886241)

BTW - dalvik is not a java virtual machine. It can't run Java programs.

Fair enough. It's nearly correct to say that it's an implementation of Java, though, which I think is the only requirement for this discussion.

There are plenty of competing virtual machines. IBM made one, Kaffe is another. GNU classpath is yet another.

Sure. I have no idea if any of those licensed Java from Sun (/Oracle) or not, other than IBM who certainly did. GNU Classpath almost certainly isn't making any money off of it, however, and copyright does not require aggressive defense in order to be maintained. It greatly benefits any owner of Java for Java to be in widespread use if they are trying to make money from its use in any way. Just like it helped Microsoft gain immense cultural penetration to have widespread DOS piracy, which allowed them to nearly monopolize the PC market--it didn't make sense to go after the smaller infringers, because smaller infringers go on to work for large organizations and want to use those skills and tools.

Android is probably one of the largest non-licensed implementations of Java in the world if it isn't the largest. And it's commercial. It's no surprise at all that Oracle went after Google.

Re:Or we can laugh when they win and are sued ... (4, Insightful)

Barbara, not Barbie (721478) | about 2 years ago | (#39886601)

You missed the entire point - you do not need a license to implement a java runtime - the license is for the use of the Java name, the coffe-cup logo, certification that your implementation meets the requirements of the TCK, etc.

In addition, Java was fragmentted by SUN. Java ME (mobile edition) is an absolute mess, with major incompatibilities, so the entire "OMG Android fragments the java platform" argument is a lie. It's even more of a lie because Android is not Java.

Sun's former CEO has testified that there's no problem with people making unlicensed implementations - the java language is open and free for anyone to use. Oracle has stipulated in court that this is true. Same as the c language is open and free for anyone to use. Same as if you're not happy with the c++ STL, you're free to implement your own version (and there are multiple implementations of the STL). BASIC. Pascal. C#. While you can copyright an implementation, you cannot copyright the idea behind the implementation, any more than you can copyright the rules of a game.

As for Android being commercial - so what? Anyone is free to implement a Java-to-whatever translator, just as Google bought a Java-to-dalvik translator called Android. Just like you're free to implement a BASIC-to-c translator, or a Java-to-c translator. The language is free for anyone to use. Even Oracle has agreed - in court - that this is the case.

Oracle thought they'd get a big payday from patents, but most of those have been struck down by the USPTO reviews, so now they're down to whining about stupidity like 9 lines in a sort routine that aren't even theirs - they were imported from the timsort routine in python [wikipedia.org] .

Re:Or we can laugh when they win and are sued ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39885583)

There is no connection at all between SQL and this case. Oracle winning this case would not give any kind of precedent for IBM to sue oracle over SQL, that is complete nonsense. There is simply no actual connection, you are just regurgitating mindless comments others have made.

If oracle loses, that will be the biggest loss for java, as anyone can tear java apart and make incompatible implementations. This basically destroys java's reason for existing, so why program in java at all then, you may as well just program in whatever platforms native language.

It is definitely in java's interest and everyone who programs in java, and everyone who is invested in java for oracle to win. To say otherwise is nonsense.

That is not to say Apis should be copyright able, or oracle should win, just clearing up the reality of the situation.

Re:Or we can laugh when they win and are sued ... (1)

Barbara, not Barbie (721478) | about 2 years ago | (#39885667)

SQL is an API for accessing data in a database.

BTW - anyone can already make an incompatible implementation of Java - just so long as they don't call it Java. Oracle has already conceded this point.

Re:Can search results be copyrighted? (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39884585)

It's not only some vague Terms of Service or other mainly uncontrolled and unforceable terms either. Google will ban you from accessing their service the instant their algorithm detects it's not an actual human being making searches and viewing their ads. Even if you behave nicely with your scripts and rate-limit them not to hit Google's servers badly.

I see, so I'm not just imagining it -- Bing really did become even shittier lately.

Re:Can search results be copyrighted? (2)

simula (1032230) | about 2 years ago | (#39884597)

You are mistaken, Google does not attempt to copyright its search results. In fact, they found Bing was copying their search results [searchengineland.com] and publicly shamed them about it, but never claimed infringement of any kind.

Re:Can search results be copyrighted? (-1)

CriticalAnalysis (2631225) | about 2 years ago | (#39884655)

Actually, that was Google trying to make Bing look bad while "conveniently" not putting in all the details. This has been discussed and bunked on Slashdot and other sites so many times. Bing does not copy results from Google. What Microsoft does, with users opt-in, is do anonymous usage statistics from IE by looking at every search box, what the user searches for and where he goes next. This is good statistical info, as what page user chooses for specific search has a good change of being relevant to the search. The only part it's relevant to Google is because Google also is one site that resides on the internet. Nothing else. And Google does this same kind of analysis with Chrome.

Re:Can search results be copyrighted? (1)

symbolset (646467) | about 2 years ago | (#39885021)

The results returned by Google searches are a document and are automatically copyrighted. They didn't pursue this, but that doesn't change the law.

Re:Can search results be copyrighted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39885349)

Probably not, as simply collections of facts are not usually copyrightable. There are some countries where you can copyright this - I think UK have something to this effect, but most countries don't.

Anyways, sites redirecting requests to Google would be easily caught and bots harvesting Google data would be not just easier to catch, but also mostly useless. Their only use I can think of is shitty spam "results of google search + our ads" pages for popular words, and it seems they're mostly dead now thanks to algorithm tweaks.

Re:Can search results be copyrighted? (4, Informative)

andydread (758754) | about 2 years ago | (#39884757)

This pathetic attempt to blame Google for the fact that we may never be able to use free or documented APIs ever again is ridiculous. Oracle, Apple, and Microsoft started this war with software-patents. And now Oracle is trying to get APIs ruled as copyrightable. It's really egregious behaviour on the part of these incumbent tech corporations to use these sleazy litigation tactics against any successful open source product. Just spare us the bullshit. Microsoft promised this war way back with their Halloween documents [catb.org] and now they are getting help from Oracle and Apple.

Re:Can search results be copyrighted? (-1, Troll)

protocolture (2460898) | about 2 years ago | (#39886565)

Well there we go. You did it. You personally found the evidence that Microsoft wants money and market share. Fantastic, now we can prosecute them, because making profit is a crime. Now we can get on with our lives, using products from apple, oracle and google. None of whom even like money. Apple didn't have any for years. And google freely gives out market share to any small business that asks. Thank you Internet super hero, for without you none of this was possible.

Re:Can search results be copyrighted? (4, Insightful)

Vairon (17314) | about 2 years ago | (#39884925)

What are you talking about?

I see no evidence that Google is asserting copyright over search results. Go ahead do a search and look for a copyright symbol...there is none.
https://www.google.com/search?q=linux [google.com]

As a comparison do a Bing search and Microsoft does assert its copyright at the bottom of every page.
http://www.bing.com/search?q=linux [bing.com]

Copyright has nothing to do with terms of service. Google is under no obligation to let you or anyone else use their service in a way they don't want. That's completely different than Oracle asking the government to fine Google for supposedly violating their copyright on something that is possibly not copyrightable like an API. Oracle is not alleging that Google violated a terms of service. They are alleging that Google needed a license in order to copy copyrighted material.

Google created their service and for the most part they can decide how the service is used. If someone is using their service in a way that hurts Google they are within their legal or moral rights to not provide that service in a way that hurts them. Just like as a website operator I can decide how my web server is used. I can choose to ban Google's IPs if I don't want them to access my service. I can use a robots.txt file to instruct their HTTP agent to ignore certain pages. If my website's content is copied in a way that is not covered by fair use I can ask the government to fine those who are violating my copyright but that is separate from determining what IPs may use my web server as a service. Just like Google could choose to ask the government to fine someone who violated their copyright in a way that is not covered by fair use.

Can you cite any references where Google has alleged that someone violated their copyright on a search result that you believe is covered by fair use?

Re:Can search results be copyrighted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39885011)

Yes, it really is amazing how much impact one's source of income can have one one's moral, legal, and political opinions.

Re:Can search results be copyrighted? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39885135)

Hey, Overly Critical Guy, do you get off doing what you do? Your trolling and constantly stalking stories so you can get self affirmation from your posts? Grow a fucking pair and spend some time in the real world, you douchebag.

Re:Can search results be copyrighted? (2)

rosciol (925673) | about 2 years ago | (#39885229)

Google will ban you from accessing their service the instant their algorithm detects it's not an actual human being making searches and viewing their ads. Even if you behave nicely with your scripts and rate-limit them not to hit Google's servers badly.

I can't see how this is even remotely relevant to the topic at hand. All it sounds like is you have a bone to pick. The fact that Google references other peoples' content - which, as a search engine, is by definition what they're supposed to be doing - does not mean that their service is not value-added, and that they are not entitled to withhold the results of their algorithms from other people wanting to programatically utilize those results for their own purposes. If search were easy, and not resource intensive, there would be more search engine competitors and people wouldn't keep coming back to Google. I see no reason they shouldn't be allowed to protect those results from people violating their completely reasonable terms of use (the darn thing is free already, what more do you want?), and you haven't provided one.

What, exactly, is your reason? Google custom search engines are a perfectly viable option for most use cases, but apparently you'd like to pass off their search results are your own, or you'd like to create an ad-free version of Google? I have no idea, because, again, you haven't actually given a reason why you should be allowed to do something that, in general, I don't think should be allowed. Why should a competitor be allowed to scrape Google's search results?

On the other hand, Google has no problem hitting your servers and causing more than $1000 fees for the owner for nothing.

You like straw men, apparently. Anyone who doesn't like Google hitting their servers can easily disable indexing entirely, or rate limit the indexing process. That is, Google actually respects robots.txt files, which is more than I can say for a huge number of other crawlers out there on the Internet. Before you go complaining about something that can actually be controlled by a halfway competent sysadmin, maybe you should worry more about the bots that don't actually play by the rules, and have no intention of doing so? They're far more of a problem.

Instruction sets can be licensable (2, Insightful)

mveloso (325617) | about 2 years ago | (#39884345)

Intel licensed the x86 instruction set to AMD.

If an instruction set is licensable, then an API can be too...although it's unclear from what I've read if the licensing covered the instruction set itself or the right to manufacture something compatible with that instruction set. Either way, that should cover the API.

Re:Instruction sets can be licensable (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39884387)

Yet you do not see Intel going after the likes of dosbox, virtualbox, virtualpc, vmware, bochs....

Me thinks the instruction set license was an easy way out for most parties instead of a long drawn out court battle...

Re:Instruction sets can be licensable (0)

hairyfeet (841228) | about 2 years ago | (#39885023)

I shouldn't respond to an AC but the mods irked me on this one, insightful? Really? One is a software emulation for interoperablility which has clear exceptions under fair use, the other is silicon as I have yet to see anyone win a case on copying hardware. Sorry mods but you blew this one, this isn't even apples and oranges, its apples and a crayon drawing of fruit.

Re:Instruction sets can be licensable (1)

gman003 (1693318) | about 2 years ago | (#39885763)

DOSBox and Bochs are the only ones there that actually implement any non-trivial part of the x86 ISA. Notably, they are a) open-source, either GPL or LGPL, and b) the developers had no special access to any of the "APIs". All they stuff they used was open literature - and you can't sue someone for violating a license you didn't have on the "intellectual property".

VirtualBox, VirtualPC, and VMWare are all virtualizers - they *require* an Intel-compatible CPU to run. They do not implement any of the x86 instruction set (except as needed to trap restricted instructions and "emulate" them in software). Intel would be stupid to sue them, especially since their existence drives up the demand for Intel (and sometimes compatible) processors.

Re:Instruction sets can be licensable (1)

Skuld-Chan (302449) | about 2 years ago | (#39884431)

A lot of this stems from the agreement Intel made with AMD to have a second source for chips for IBM PC computers - they in turn licensed AMD64 to Intel. No-one ever went to court, but doubt you can copyright op-codes in the same manner.

Maybe this is what Oracle is hoping for? Some sort of cross licensing agreement with Google? A piece of the Android pie.

Re:Instruction sets can be licensable (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39884447)

x86 instruction set is licensed to AMD as part of a patent-licensing agreement -- because parts of the instruction set itself are patented. E.g.,:

Intel believes that Global Foundries is not a subsidiary under terms of the agreement and is therefore not licensed under the 2001 patent cross-license agreement. Intel also said the structure of the deal between AMD and ATIC breaches a confidential portion of that agreement. Intel has asked AMD to make the relevant portion of the agreement public, but so far AMD has declined to do so.

Copyright != patent protection. Oracle has never claimed that Google violated its patents (probably because it doesn't hold patents protecting the Java API). It's worth noting that patenting the API would clearly make it patent-encumbered and thus, potentially susceptible to exactly the kind of Shenanigans that Oracle is trying to pull. Of course, if it was patent-encumbered, then the industry would [probably] know about it, and would steer clear, as appropriate. Basically, Oracle is trying to have its cake ("open") and eat it too ("license").

Patent suit still pending (4, Informative)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#39884549)

Oracle has never claimed that Google violated its patents (probably because it doesn't hold patents protecting the Java API).

The case was in fact about patents before it became clear that Google was very likely to prevail on Oracle's patent infringement allegations. At that point, Oracle decided to add a copyright infringement claim. The suit over U.S. Patents 5966702, 6910205, and RE38104 is still pending and will be resolved after the copyright suit concludes.

Re:Instruction sets can be licensable (4, Informative)

exomondo (1725132) | about 2 years ago | (#39884777)

Oracle has never claimed that Google violated its patents (probably because it doesn't hold patents protecting the Java API).

Yes they did, in fact that was the initial basis for this court action [slashdot.org] . The copyright portion is being resolved first then it moves on to the patent portion of the lawsuit.

It's worth noting that patenting the API would clearly make it patent-encumbered and thus, potentially susceptible to exactly the kind of Shenanigans that Oracle is trying to pull.

Java is quite heavily patent-encumbered.

Of course, if it was patent-encumbered, then the industry would [probably] know about it, and would steer clear, as appropriate.

Well no, that would be silly, because it is patent-encumbered but the GPL status of Java means that GPL implementations - like OpenJDK - get an implicit patent license as well as all downstream projects.

Basically, Oracle is trying to have its cake ("open") and eat it too ("license").

Just because something is open doesn't mean it can't be patent-encumbered, if you understand the patent-specific elements of the GPL this should be quite clear.

Re:Instruction sets can be licensable (4, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39884489)

As someone who worked in x86 Architecture, I'm pretty sure (though I'm not a lawyer, so get their opinion definitively first) that the issue here is not the instruction set Per Se, but various physical implementation details that would occur building real circuits to produce a processor chip.

So, for example, that's why various software-based x86 emulator/simulator writers have not been sued.

Re:Instruction sets can be licensable (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39884495)

Intel holds patents on various necessary mechanisms for implementing the x86 instruction set. Their licensing regime is mainly based on strong patents, not on mere copyrights or the spelling of assembler opcodes.

In the 1970's, there were companies that cloned Data General's NOVA instruction set and ran Data General's RTOS operating system. RTOS was offered below cost, with DG expecting to get compensated by hardware sales. Data General defeated those clone companies by lawsuit. I think in that case, it was based on copyright notices in all the DG instruction set manuals.

       

Re:Instruction sets can be licensable (1)

R3d M3rcury (871886) | about 2 years ago | (#39884879)

Well, anything is licensable. The question is, can you use it without a license?

Consider the "cloud music" stuff. Apple signed licenses with all the music companies so that their customers could link their music libraries with iTunes Music Store. Turns out, they didn't need to do that.

Which is cheaper? Fighting it in court or just paying a license?

hope we luck out (5, Insightful)

Eponymous Hero (2090636) | about 2 years ago | (#39884421)

the rest of us who know what we're talking about have to sit around and wait for outsider judges and juries to decide the context of things far outside their grasp. it takes years for an engineer to become competent in these technologies, and now we have bus drivers and secretaries deciding what applies to us and our trade in the span of mere weeks. can we get specialized jury selection for cases involving specialized knowledge?

Re:hope we luck out (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39884533)

That. Mod points if I had any.

My impression has always been that with a jury trial there will be way too much emphasis placed on 'how to influence' the jury, how to mess with their minds, how to appeal to XYZ to get their emotions into play, rather than on the simple matter of finding the truth. Often it seems, the more of a showman/woman some lawyer is, the better they are at influencing people, the more likely they are to win a case.

While surely there are juries that try to do the best job they can, they still don't have the necessary training and experience in whatever subject matter they are supposed to judge on (whether it's forensic evidence in a murder trial, patent law or something arcane such as APIs). They also don't have legal training either.

I think judging things should be left to experts: Judge legal matter by legal experts, bring in technical experts as needed. Lay people - that have to receive crash courses in whatever - will unnecessarily slow it all down, and eventually also dumb it down, now matter how hard and earnestly they try.

Let's do away with jury trials.

Re:hope we luck out (4, Insightful)

sribe (304414) | about 2 years ago | (#39884793)

...and now we have bus drivers and secretaries deciding what applies to us and our trade in the span of mere weeks...

If you'd been following the case you'd know that this judge has been working very hard, for months, to understand the issues and make sure the jury is presented with well-formed questions and good background. How good a job he has been able to do, I don't know because that would require wading through hundreds, perhaps thousands, of pages :-)

Re:hope we luck out (1)

tkrotchko (124118) | about 2 years ago | (#39885589)

"If you'd been following the case you'd know that this judge has been working very hard, for months, to understand the issues "

I think the parent poster did understand that. He was merely pointing out that a judge even after months of study is unlikely to fully understand the ramifications as well as someone who has been studying and developing API's and languages for decades.

Never mind the jury; no matter what the judge tells them, their judgement will essentially be random.

Re:hope we luck out (4, Funny)

gman003 (1693318) | about 2 years ago | (#39885769)

What we need is a professional, full-time expert in car metaphors, who can go before the court and say "This case here is like a carburetor..."

Re:hope we luck out (1)

rtb61 (674572) | about 2 years ago | (#39886207)

What is interesting here is if Oracle wins they will lose. The reason they will lose is because a win will affect every single other developer using Java as they also come under risk, end result, 'Class Action Lawsuit' pretty much guaranteed. A professional legal team experienced in computer litigation will take up the challenge to sue Oracle for misleading developers who have made substantive investments in Java with regard to their rights to use the language and risk that implies to the ownership of the result's. Oracle can not win without losing, it can not single out Google without threatening everyone else.

Re:hope we luck out (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39885115)

The expert knowledge in the case is supposed to come from the expert witnesses.

You don't really want the jurors to be too deep in the field; in particular, you don't want the jurors to be privately disagreeing with the explanations of the expert witness.
Why? Because the jurors are not examined. An "expert juror" could decide the case based on a prejudice that is never heard in court, and neither of the sides get the opportunity to challenge. A jury with few preconceptions is good for transparency.

Besides, how likely is it that such a jury would be unbiased? Would they rule against Google despite the implications for IT if Oracle wins?

Re:hope we luck out (1)

Sarten-X (1102295) | about 2 years ago | (#39885657)

My kingdom for mod points...

This is exactly right. Given the somewhat representative sample of experts on this site, consider how much bias there is about trivial things like Google playing with augmented reality or Oracle running Java on a Raspberry Pi... There's a group who thinks that Google's always out to steal information, and absolutely must have a nefarious agenda behind its glasses. There's an independent group of people (myself included) who believe that Oracle is trying to piggyback on any good PR they can get to dull the pain of their reputation for sneaky licensing tricks.

Finding a dozen IT experts with no opinions or prior commercial histories with either company simply isn't feasible. It's better to take bus drivers and secretaries, and just educate them on the issues at hand. They don't need to know about algorithmic complexity, microarchitecture, or how to write a secure SQL query, but just what an API is. That can be taught adequately in about two hours.

Re:hope we luck out (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39886479)

Much better for them to decide on emotional prejudices!

If Oracle wins... (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39884483)

... I move to the EU.

At least there is still one region in the world where the hairless monkeys haven't gone completely insane.

Re:If Oracle wins... (1)

next_ghost (1868792) | about 2 years ago | (#39884841)

While the leader monkeys in EU aren't completely insane on their own, the same old "monkey sees, monkey does" still applies to them, though.

Oracle is grasping at straws (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39884505)

This is just another example of companies that are going the way of the dinosaur trying to litigate instead of innovate. Those who can, do. Those who can't, sue.

Matters of fact vs. matters of law (2, Informative)

Citizen of Earth (569446) | about 2 years ago | (#39884507)

waiting for the Oracle v. Google trial jury to rule on the same question under U.S. law.

This idea seems rather broken. Juries are supposed to decide matters of fact and courts are supposed to decide matters of law. Whether an API is copyrightable is purely a matter of law, not fact. What the hell's going on here? This decision is the judge's responsibility.

Jury, pretend that the API is copyrightable. (3, Informative)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#39884589)

The question submitted to the jury was one of fact: "Let's pretend that the API is copyrightable. Was it copied?" After the answer comes back, the judge will decide the question of law as to whether it was copyrightable in the first place.

Re:Jury, pretend that the API is copyrightable. (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 2 years ago | (#39885073)

If that was the case then the judge would say assume the whole API is not copyrightable. The fact that the judge wanted to assume this shows he does believe the api is copyrightable probably after receiving a dinner in a luxury hotel for a private education tutorial from Oracle. This is quite common sadly.

Why else would the judge say this? He did not say do not worry about whether it is copyrightable. He said assume it 100% and go find out if it in fact did occur and I will base my ruling on this.

Re:Jury, pretend that the API is copyrightable. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39885155)

Because if is isn't copyrightable, the jury will be told to go home since the trial will be over. It makes no sense for the jury to deliberate anything in that case.

Re:Jury, pretend that the API is copyrightable. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39885185)

Because wasting jury's time doesn't make sense otherwise: "Assume that Google couldn't have been infringing because it's not-copyrightable, and then tell me based on this assumption, did they noninfringe on Oracle's IP in this case?"

Jury's there to decide on fact of infringement/non-infringement, he's there to decide on copyrightability/non-copyrightability. Sending them off with plain "I don't know. Don't assume anything" would move discussion of copyrightability onto jury, and assumption of non-copyrightability makes this nonsensical.

Re:Jury, pretend that the API is copyrightable. (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 years ago | (#39885127)

The problem with that line of reasoning is that it takes one down an avenue that is wholly irrelevant (and a waste of time) if the hypothetical scenario is false. The biggest danger with this line of thinking is that if you start by assuming that it was copyrightable, then deciding that they did copy it, you've set up a framework for possibly biasing your own decision in favor of concluding that it *WAS* copyrightable, instead of making an unbiased decision.

For what it's worth, I'd be inclined to say that yes... Google copied the Java API.

Re:Jury, pretend that the API is copyrightable. (1)

Xtifr (1323) | about 2 years ago | (#39885203)

Actually, it potentially avoids a waste of time. Whoever wins, the decision is certain to be appealed. With a jury verdict available, the appeals court can focus on matters of law without forcing a new trial of fact.

For what it's worth, I'd be inclined to say that yes... Google copied the Java API.

That question is not in dispute. Google, like Apache and the FSF and countless others, openly and publically copied the Java API, and has never pretended otherwise.

Re:Jury, pretend that the API is copyrightable. (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 years ago | (#39885223)

If that question is not in dispute, then why is a judge asking a jury to decide it?

Pleading the Seventh (3, Interesting)

tepples (727027) | about 2 years ago | (#39885279)

Judge Alsup is pleading the Seventh [wikipedia.org] : "no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law." This way, the jury's verdict on the facts is on the books no matter what questions of law the Court of Appeals remands back to Alsup, and there's no need for an expensive retrial.

Re:Jury, pretend that the API is copyrightable. (1)

Xtifr (1323) | about 2 years ago | (#39885287)

It's not. The jury is going to decide whether the copying of the API alone could be defended as fair use or de minimus. The judge is going to decide whether an API can be copyrighted in the first place. If it's fair use or de minimus, Google wins. If the API isn't copyrightable, Google wins. If judge decides the API is copyrightable (which goes against strong precedent), we all lose.

Re:Jury, pretend that the API is copyrightable. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39885677)

If google loses, we all lose? Please.

Certainly anyone invested in java in any way wins.

As for everyone else, the consequences that some people attribute to oracle winning are not all true, although some definitely are. There are also consequences if google win, which many people ignore completely.

It won't be the end of the world either way.

Re:Jury, pretend that the API is copyrightable. (1)

mark-t (151149) | about 2 years ago | (#39885809)

There are also consequences if google win, which many people ignore completely.

What are those consequences, exactly? I've asked that question before, What, exactly, are the consequences if Google wins? I've asked it before, but never got a straight answer. What would it mean for Google? What would it mean for Oracle? What would it mean for Java? For other languages?

Re:Matters of fact vs. matters of law (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39884671)

Juries are supposed to decide matters of fact and courts are supposed to decide matters of law. Whether an API is copyrightable is purely a matter of law, not fact. What the hell's going on here? This decision is the judge's responsibility.

The summary is too terse. The jury will rule on the facts first. Then the judge can rule on the law, if it will make a difference.

Bad summary. (1)

RyuuzakiTetsuya (195424) | about 2 years ago | (#39884593)

It's not that in the EU that APIs can't be copyrighted, it's that APIs can be clean-room reimplemented. Whether or not they can be copyrighted is another story all together.

Google didn't do a clean room implementation of Java with Dalvik.

Re:Bad summary. (2)

ChunderDownunder (709234) | about 2 years ago | (#39884773)

Google didn't do a clean room implementation of Java with Dalvik

The VM itself? No. But they did base their class libraries on Apache Harmony, a clean room implementation of the Java APIs. [for which Sun refused to license the Java Compatibility Kit anyway - the shenanigans started long before Larry got involved]

Turn-about (3, Interesting)

evil_aaronm (671521) | about 2 years ago | (#39884605)

Wouldn't Oracle be guilty of this, as well, to some extent? Oracle couldn't possibly be using a 100% "clean" environment for their product or development systems. If they use C and standard libraries, they're using, in effect, copyright-able APIs.

Re:Turn-about (2)

nurb432 (527695) | about 2 years ago | (#39884635)

While that is true, is the API for C in the public domain or controlled by a company? If its a company, does this company want to milk people or just say 'go ahead and use it'.

Being copyrighted by its self does not mean good or bad things, it just 'is'. Its how that copyright is used is what matters.

Just think about how the GPL, BSD, etc copyrights work.

Speaking of the C library (1)

aisrael (1266098) | about 2 years ago | (#39886013)

Honest question (IANAL): if APIs can't be copyrighted, then does that mean glibc or the Linux kernel can't be protected under the GPL?

Re:Turn-about (1)

ratboy666 (104074) | about 2 years ago | (#39886239)

Oracle released Oracle V2 back in 1979. SQL was an IBM design/language.

IBM themselves released SQL a few weeks later!

Of interest is that MIT (RDBMS) and U/Cal Berkley (Ingres) had those out (but Ingres used QUELL, not SQL, but Ingres became Postgres, so, it could be argued that Postgres is the real SQL leader).

Naturally, because SQL came from academia (although Codd worked for IBM, thereby allowing IBM credit).

SQL wasn't standardized until 1986, so if "APIs and Languages" are ruled Copyrightable, Oracle spent 7 years in violation.

Shame on them. The Oracle company was built on exactly what Oracle wishes to kill off.

Far beyond programing languages (3, Insightful)

nurb432 (527695) | about 2 years ago | (#39884609)

If API's can be restricted like this, it would go far beyond simple languages. Think about the concept of what an API actually is..

Even something as apparently benign as replacement parts for your washer could be restricted and eliminate cheaper 3rd party parts. Even if its not electronic in nature, just claim that nothing can be compatible enough to hook up to your 'widget connector version b'.

Re:mod parent up (1)

Billly Gates (198444) | about 2 years ago | (#39885103)

It is pretty sad when lawyers confuse trademark, patent, and copyright and an ignorant jury and public. Now through judicial activism they are doing the same by making any of them equal. It is easier to trademark than to patent but in essence the copyright has patent powers that list 170 fuck years or something with no patent fees!

Terrible and scary.

Re:Far beyond programing languages (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39885641)

API here is not analogous to a simple replacement part, that analogy would be a single function.

The API would be the entire washing machine and how it actually works.

Will be huge for ColdFusion (4, Interesting)

devleopard (317515) | about 2 years ago | (#39884663)

ColdFusion [adobe.com] was about the only language (in my experience - sure there's others) that you needed to pay for the runtime for your code (in a production environment; development version was free; The "Express" version went away around 2001 or so). Then along come Railo [getrailo.org] and Open BlueDragon [openbd.org] , and there were open source alternatives. The "language" itself is pretty basic (most developers get by using just 5 tags), but the power of it comes when you use the various feature tags that are more akin to APIs (cfchart, cfpdf, cfsearch, etc). Railo and OpenBD of course implement all these tags. Whereas Oracle doesn't "sell" Java, Adobe sells ColdFusion - if Oracle wins, Adobe has 100% motivation to eliminate their competition. (Should also point out that OpenBD's lineage comes from New Atlanta [newatlanta.com] , which sells commercial version of Blue Dragon - MySpace was built on this.)

Re:Will be huge for ColdFusion (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39886547)

Might want to read the ColdFusion license agreement to see if it permits reverse engineering. It isn't your God given right to use ColdFusion, you know.

This one is dead easy re any intellecutal property (1)

spads (1095039) | about 2 years ago | (#39884669)

It's not the what that should be eligible for copy-right protection, it's the how. APIs are the what. The implementation is the how.

Hello world? (1)

pkinetics (549289) | about 2 years ago | (#39884729)

So writing a piece of code that basically generates "Hello World" requires licensing?

Re:Hello world? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39885617)

Java is released as GPL plus classpath exception. This means you are free to write any program you like in java with absolutely no restrictions.

This is not what the case is about at all.

ugh. got a bad feeling. (1)

Wakko Warner (324) | about 2 years ago | (#39884845)

Sadly, I absolutely do not trust the US to make the correct decision in this case. IP law in America needs to be nuked from orbit and rebuilt from scratch, and the prevailing attitude there right now doesn't seem to be amenable to something like that.

Re:ugh. got a bad feeling. (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39885243)

FTFA:

6. Is it agreed that the following is true, at least as of 1996?

The following were the core Java Application Programming Interface: java.lang, java.util and java.io.
7. Does the Java programming language refer to or require any method, class or package outside the above three?

Yeah, we're doomed. The judge just asked a trick question...

Slow news day? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39885293)

Does anyone else feel like we have had too many Oracle vs Google stories lately? Now it's not news - it's the opinion of Groklaw's Pamela as interviewed by a blogger. And - surprise - they think that victory of Oracle would be bad news for developers. "Stuff that matters" - yes. But it's not "news for geeks", with emphasis on the "news".

3rd party use? Please explain (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39885315)

IANAL but I wonder if an API being copyrightable starting now, what happens to all those 3rd party developments that "use" the API? Does that mean a corporation who had/will have some Java application built for them is now liable?

What about the PC BIOS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39885693)

The BIOS used in Windows-compatible PCs is a set of APIs, and it has been reverse-engineered by essentially every PC clone maker. Without permission. Aren't Windows-compatible computer makers in danger of being sued by Levono if API sets can be copyrighted?

What will Oracle say when pinged for license fees? (2)

FellowConspirator (882908) | about 2 years ago | (#39885725)

It seems that if Oracle successfully argues this point, everybody that provides Oracle with a library is going to demand a license fee. Imagine if Brian Kernighan decided that the C standard library ought to be generating more (well, some) income...

What about the PC BIOS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39885827)

The PC BIOS is a set of APIs that has been reverse-engineered by various PC clone makers without permission. If API sets can be copyrighted, won't Levono be able to sue all of the various makers of Windows-compatible PCs?

Bad news for Java developers (1)

caywen (942955) | about 2 years ago | (#39886215)

I think that something is only an API if we call it an API. However, I think once an entity labels something as an API, that should be the same as saying, "this subset of our source code is freely implementable and modifiable by anybody." It should be the same as saying, "we as a company are opting out of claiming this part of our source code is our IP."

How about this for an API:

size_t count_chickens(const egg_vector_t& eggs);

Ok, got a copyright on that. Don't even *think* about implementing that without licensing from me.

Is it hitting the fan yet? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 2 years ago | (#39886423)

Copyright and (software) patents both: it keeps going on and on and on from bad to worse to WTF. When is the shit finally hitting the fan, and things blow up in the rightsholders' faces: a sudden move back to reason?
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