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back to article 'Copyrighted' Java APIs deserve same protection as HARRY POTTER, Oracle tells court

Oracle has asked an appeals court to decide that it does have copyright protection for its Java APIs, which Google used in the creation of its Android operating system, and thereby revive its billion-dollar suit against the firm. Oracle’s lawyer Josh Rosenkranz told the three-judge panel of the US Court of Appeals that Google …

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Mushroom

Get Suffed Oracle

Now you really are taking the piss.

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Re: Get Suffed Oracle

Exactly!

So when I start extending classes will there be a knock on the door from men in suits issuing me with a set of papers to cease and desist trying to use OOP principles?

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Re: Get Suffed Oracle

So, to get this right, the class object Integer has a method .toString() returns the string of integer. Any they claim to own copyright over that template. Clearly clutching at straws.

And as for the harry potter analogy -they've got that wrong. Harry potter is just a "Book" which is generic. All books have chapters, contents and indexes. The individual implementation [i.e. the text] of that can be copyrighted, but to claim anybody who writes a book violates JK's copyright is clearly a first class idiot. Even if its a story about wizards that has the same number of chapters as the Philosophers Stone. I'm also guessing that chapter titles probably aren't copyrightable too (may be wrong there though) Oh, and I'm guessing 'preface' or 'introduction' is too generic too :)

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@HollyHopDrive

Actually, the best analogy is they copied the index of the book, rewrote all the text, and then adjusted the page numbers, while adding some extra references along the way.

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Re: @HollyHopDrive

So Google admit to using the same 26 letters as Oracle?

Obviously guilty then.

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If Oracle want APIs copyrighted

Lets start with an experiment and copyright SQL. If they're still happy with the idea after, say, 5 years then they can start to look at others.

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Pirate

Re: If Oracle want APIs copyrighted

Yuck! API's are not copyrighted! We remember SCO suing IBM over Unix copyrights, when all that was copied seems to have been a couple of header files.

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Re: If Oracle want APIs copyrighted

> Yuck! API's are not copyrighted! We remember SCO suing IBM over Unix copyrights, when all that was copied seems to have been a couple of header files.

I don't remember whether API's could be copyrightable ever came up in the SCO case, it certainly wasn't a key factor. Some of the reasons SCO lost:

SCO didn't own the copyrights, Novell did.

The Unix API had mostly be licensed or not properly copyrighted (at the time you needed to add copyright notices and register copyright) originally such that is was available for use by Linux.

Linux didn't copy anything (SCO scraped together a few dozen matching lines but they weren't illegitimately copied).

SCO released it's own version of LInux with the relevant code in under the GPL.

IBM had licenses by various routes anyway.

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Re: If Oracle want APIs copyrighted

Looks like IBM (home to Codd and where SQL was invented) already took care of that:

http://publib.boulder.ibm.com/infocenter/dzichelp/v2r2/index.jsp?topic=%2Fcom.ibm.db2z10.doc.apsg%2Fsrc%2Ftpc%2Fdb2z_dynamicsqlapp.htm

All those API description pages are copyrighted by IBM 1983, and there are almost certainly earlier copyrights.

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If they allow copyright on APIs ...

then they should also make the following sorts of things proprietary and charge people a fee for building compatible parts: anything that uses a nut/bolt type thread; anything that uses an AAA battery; anything that uses a 3 pin plug; readers of books published in a new font; ...

The EU courts wisely say that APIs cannot be copyrighted. Hopefully the USA judges will take note.

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Re: If they allow copyright on APIs ...

The US judges find it very difficult to understand that anywhere outside of the US actually exists, so they are hardly likely to pay any attention to a non-US court.

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Re: If they allow copyright on APIs ...

To allow copyright APIs is to end software compatibility forever. Software development comes to a full stop.

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@ Alain Re: If they allow copyright on APIs ...

Actually no.

I will be down voted by commentards but oh well...

First off nuts and bolts can be patented. Like barb wire.

But those patents have long since been gone. (Patents only have a limited life span.)

However if you create a new and modern take on the bolt, you can patent it.

In short, your argument falls completely apart.

The API is a public exposed interface which does actually have some creativity involved.

Google could have created their own APIs that did roughly the same thing, however Google wanted the compatibility of Java. (But its not java, which is their claim. )

Suppose I have a system and I say my API call is foo(something)

I'm successful and many people like my product and its API.

Now you create a competing product that you want developers to automatically familiar with my APIs to be able to use your product.

Rather than creating bar(something) which is analogous to the same thing my foo() does, you just copy my APIs.

Depending on the oral arguments... its going to get interesting.

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Re: If they allow copyright on APIs ...

The US judges find it very difficult to understand that anywhere outside of the US actually exists, so they are hardly likely to pay any attention to a non-US court.

You do realize that US based judges and courts rule based on the following:

- the arguments raised in front of them

- the law itself

and they ignore everything else.

So it doesn't matter what the EU thinks. Or what their laws say...

They have their hands tied.

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Re: If they allow copyright on APIs ...

Has the US ceased to be a common law country? US courts take account of precedent as well.

To say that they ignore everything except the argument and the law better descirbes Roman law countries (except that precedent does have a role in those even if it is less important than in common law jusrisdictions).

I suspect that the higher courts are also well aware of legal developments in other legal systems and may well use knowledge of them to inform decisions in their own jurisdictions.

IANAL etc. (and I suspect you are not either).

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Re: If they allow copyright on APIs ...

"Has the US ceased to be a common law country? US courts take account of precedent as well."

You clearly haven't spent time in court.

The lawyers raise the arguments and raise precedence.

Sure the judge can use their knowledge of the law, but if they don't know about the precedence, and the lawyers don't raise it... there you go.

Now that's just the judge. Jury trials... the jury hears the argument and bases their decisions on the arguments made by the lawyers.

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Re: If they allow copyright on APIs ...

"The lawyers raise the arguments and raise precedence..."

Ian, regardless of the rights and wrongs of this specific matter, you don't increase our confidence in your legal expertise by spelling "precedents" wrong.

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Re: @ Alain If they allow copyright on APIs ...

I agree with HollyHopDrive. The API analogy is the 'Book'. It has methods (APIs) of

'OpenAt(int PageNumber)',

'Read()'

'Write(int pageNumber, int chapter, string title, string content)'

'Read()' might return an object called 'Chapter' with properties like 'Title' and 'Content'.

An API is not a finished book, it is the means to create a book and is not is copyrightable. The specific number of chapters, their titles and the chapter content of a specific book instance are open to copyright.

This distinction between the abstract concept of an API and a physical instance of an object seems to be lost on legal types in much the same way as the rationale for legalese is lost on non-legal types. But that doesn't mean the rationale for legalese is irrelevant.

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Re: @ Alain If they allow copyright on APIs ...

Ian, are you really mixing patents into that copyright case? Really?

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Re: You do realize that US based judges and courts rule based on the following:

Meh, sometimes. If we were that consistent we'd have fewer problems. The fact that one of the judges has shown anything other than skepticism about Oracles claims shows at least one of them isn't willing to follow precedent.

Your example with the bolt is extremely flawed. First up, nuts, bolts, screws etc are too old a concept to be covered by patents. What has been covered is novel ways in which to drive them or perhaps physical makeup to eliminate some other problem (galvanized nails come to mind). Hence you could patent the Philips head on the basis that the cross pattern prevented slippage which was an issue with flat heads. But if I use a flat head screw where you've specified a Philips head it's all legit. I'll have to match your diameter and thread rate, but those aren't patentable. What Google did was match the diameter and thread rate of the interface and put a flat head screw instead of Philips.

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Re: Has the US ceased to be a common law country?

Red herring.

There are no common law countries and there are no Roman law countries. For the most part we have a mix of both, except in those countries following Conan law.

Given the mix of both, the relevant legal topic, patents, falls under Roman law.

Moreover, according to our Constitution and subsequent legal decisions (most noticeably Marbury v. Madison), the US Supreme Court makes final decisions about law for the US. That means that the US constitution sets the primary boundary and US court decisions, not prevailing sentiments in European courts, set the secondary boundaries.

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Re: @ Alain If they allow copyright on APIs ...

Pierre,

I was merely following a poster's argument.

Go back up the thread.

The point is that many comentards go off half cocked and post weird shit that makes no sense.

Oracle's argument is very subtle and if you understand software development, you'll see that they actually do have a case. Unfortunately its a very difficult argument to understand how an API could deserve copyright protection. (An outline isn't the final work and thus doesn't deserve copyright protection is a much easier thing to understand. Until you realize that the APIs are not merely just an outline...)

Like I've said in an earlier post... we all know what Google did.

We all know that they are guilty.

But what we can't prove is that they are guilty and that's the nut Oracle has to deal with.

(And for the slower comentards... the burden of proof is on Oracle to prove guilt to the satisfaction of the judge so while they may be guilty, they are not proven guilty.)

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Oracle, please don't make people leave Java, as that is my main source of employment!

But seriously, using this argument by Oracle, you could say that all shop facades could be copyrighted. Sure, they all sell different products and have different staff, but they all have windows and doors as an INTERFACE to the outside world and the inside shop.

So basically Oracle wants to copyright an open interface? So does that mean that anything that uses the entityManager in Java could be claimed to be infringing Oracles copyright? I hope not!

Taking the piss indeed.

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No, that is a rubbish analogy, so how about we just look at specifics:

Google wanted to use Java, so that they didn't have to re-invent the wheel, but realised that they couldn't have enough control to "optimise" it for mobile use.

Google still wanted Android developers to be able to write Java programs that would run on Android, without having to go to all the effort of creating their own eco-system, so they copied the "look-and-feel" of Java, while doing a re-write of the Java language.

If you _really_ want an analogy, it is the re-write of the IBM BIOS. The guys that did this were legal because it was done in a clean-room environment. In this case it is patently obvious that the was NOT a clean-room re-write.

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I think you may have missed my point and slight sarcasm, the key word was interface :-)

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I look forward to...

Oracle disclosing how they valued the API's as part of their acquisition of Sun.

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Anonymous Coward

Irrelevant

If they wrote their own code then copyright simply does not apply.

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Anonymous Coward

Oi, Larry

Do you want to borrow my copy of "Barry Trotter And The Shameless Parody", but maybe "Barry Trotter and the Dead Horse" is more apt.

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Re: Oi, Larry

Paradoy is fair-use, so it isn't necessarily down to the copyrightness of the original.

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Re: Oi, Larry

That's never stopped J K Rowling before...

"Rowling not laughing about Army's comic"...

http://www.chicagotribune.com/chi-0502170038feb17,0,3979718.story

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Re: Oi, Larry

Not that Harry Potter is original in the first place. It is a shameless copy of a number of other works, most notable the Books of Magic whose protagonist looks almost identical to Harry.

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Alien

Que?

akin to an author copying the chapter titles and topic sentences of an advance copy of a Harry Potter book and then paraphrasing the rest and claiming it as fair use

Seems a bit of a strange interpretation.

As others have noticed if precedent is set it means that house brick making organisations can now claim anything built with its house bricks owes a copyright fee or has breached copyright.

Maybe even power supply unit manufacturers can then sue any device makers for using PSU to power their devices and of course the utility company manufacturing electricity for public consumption will now need to argue it out with the electric cable manufacturers to see who has copyright breaches regarding stuff that is powered by mains electricity.

You humans! Aren't you funny little things?

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Boffin

Re: Que?

As others have noticed if precedent is set it means that house brick making organisations can now claim anything built with its house bricks owes a copyright fee or has breached copyright.

Sorry but that's pure BS.

I think you really need to learn more about the law before you go off half cocked.

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Coat

The Google lawyer's name...

“Yes, but only the command structure,” Google lawyer Bob Van Nest said.

Had to double take as the first time I read this, my eyes saw "Bob Van Nest", my brain registered "Bob Vistakin"... must be the end of the day.

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Re: The Google lawyer's name...

Errrr - perhaps Bob Van Nested Loop - give me a BREAK! - ducking...

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APIs, clearly as secret as an advance book copy

"Google’s argument was akin to an author copying the chapter titles and topic sentences of an advance copy of a Harry Potter book and then paraphrasing the rest and claiming it as fair use"

But only if J K Rowling was shouting these at every other author at the top of her voice.

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This is a tough one...

As a thought experiment:

You have 2 developers, A and B. They are both tasked with writing some code to do the same thing.

Both attended the same classes, and have exactly the same skill level. Both are highly nerdy types with a particular affinity for writing highly optimised code. Both also don't like leaving comments in the code.

They sit in separate rooms to write the solution.

When they have both finished they leave their respective rooms and hand in their work.

Its the same.

Who holds the copyright?

Can you tell who wrote what?

Isn't this in a similar vein to copyrighting the sum 1+1=2?

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WTF?

Re: This is a tough one...

When they have both finished they leave their respective rooms and hand in their work.

Its the same.

Fat chance of that. Unless the assignment was very simple, their code will not be the same.

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Re: This is a tough one...

According to Oracle: the first person to "copyright" it would own it. Obviously the other one copied it.

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Re: This is a tough one...

They both do (or neither if it so obviously the only way to express the information). Copyright only prevents copying so a third could do the task years later and if they did it independently they would hold a copyright too.

A fourth person could then come along and copy providing they didn't say who they copied they would probably get away with it as the others wouldn't know which of them was copied.

Patents it does matter who is first (to the patent office) and you can infringe with an independent invention unknowingly. Copyright is the opposite which is why I hate when people talk about intellectual property without being specific.

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Re: This is a tough one...

I hope this can be applied to Lotus SmartSuite.....sequestered re-development with the intent to enhance and make up-to-date.

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Re: This is a tough one...

In answer to the question, "who holds the copyright": the one with best (i.e. most expensive) lawyer.

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Re: This is a tough one...

But you don't have Developers A and B.

You have company A who produces a product and company B who wants to use the product, but doesn't want to pay the licensing fee. So they create their own like product. In an effort to make adoption of their product to people who use company A's product easier, they keep the same APIs.

We all know what Google did.

We all know why they did it.

What Oracle can't prove is that what they did, didn't occur via legal manners. (using a clean room) Although using the same published APIs could be a violation and that's what Oracle is arguing.

Its not a straight forward and simple case or argument and its more than likely the judge will get it wrong.

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Go

Pragmatic Programming = If it Works it is Good / if it Doesn't Work it is No Good...

Way back in our 1st college programming class the wife n i were assigned individual projects to read / write to a Table and to be able to print the output of specific searches... we were asked not to collaborate...

In class, both programs were put up on the board and the instructor asked the question= which one is right

?? ( both worked fine w/ wildly different coding )...after a few minutes of awkward class comments, the instructor wrote= PRAGMATIC on the board and asked= does anyone know what this means ??

Ah Ha, a moment of clarity... There is no ONE way to make a platform do something, Only the IDEA of the platform doing it...the actual code depends on the cleverness of the person doing it...If it Works, it is Good...

IMHO= the idea IS patentable, the actual code, if different IS NOT a patent violation...Lawyers should know better...RS.

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Re: This is a tough one...

Or another way of looking at it.

Developer A said "let there be a language where statement A does B, statement C does D etc"

Developer A happened to then implement that in code, Separately developer B implemented the same thing in different code.

If developer A is allowed to claim that all implementations of their language are copyright then Dennis Richie is going to be very rich - and Oracle are going to have a real problem finding a C compiler to build their database product.

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Re: Unless the assignment was very simple

Maybe like a rangeCheck method?

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Re: This is a tough one...

You are confusing patents with copyrights. Understandable, because people and organizations that want to extract unearned rent (such as Oracle, here) often try to confuse them by using the term Interllectual Property as an umbrealla term to imply they are the same thing.

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@ Ian Michael Gumby 05-12-2013 20:39

There is one true statement in your post. Unfortunately it is this bit:

its more than likely the judge will get it wrong.

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I wan't Oricle to win

Why?

It will be fun watching every other company they use an API from, using their arguments in court.

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Re: I wan't Oricle to win

Absolutely this. The mess that will result can only further point out what a mess the legal systems have become over technology and software.

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