back to article Hitchcock cameo steals opening of Oracle v Google Java spat

Oracle's long-running legal battle to get what it believes is it's fair share from Google's Android reopened this week – the second time an Appeals Court on Federal Circuit has examined the issue. The first hour overran with a bumpy ride for Google. In under an hour we got an idea of the battle lines, and the judge's …

  1. ratfox Silver badge
    Headmaster

    Once more, I'd like to point out that what Google copied was not code, but the standard Java API — without the implementation.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      It's all about the arguments and the early battles favour Oracles film metaphor over any actual facts.

      No popcorn for me - there' no entertainment to be had in watching lawyers flog dead horses in the off chance they may move and enrich Oracle...

      1. Dan 55 Silver badge

        And as much as we don't like Google, if it turns out that Oracle wins and APIs can be copyrighted, then we can all look forward to lawyers finding new work rewinding programming languages back to BCPL or before.

        1. a_yank_lurker Silver badge

          @Dan 55 - Most of the problem is those writing and interpreting how the law should be applied are acting like functional illiterates with IQs in the negative numbers, very large negative numbers. APIs and similar interfaces are not difficult to understand even for the dimmest of bulbs. The problem is shysters generally do not care to learn about how anything works and will likely tell someone who does know how ignorant they are. I have had a few run ins with shysters telling me how things work when I knew the shyster was full of it and ready to burst.

          1. Tom 7 Silver badge

            RE @Dan 55

            I'm going to write a new language based on the paradigm of ' functional illiterates'. There's some market for suing there.

          2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

            "The problem is shysters generally do not care to learn about how anything works"

            Don't forget that their fees depend on not demonstrating understanding of how it works. The reality is probably different.

        2. Richard Plinston Silver badge

          > rewinding programming languages back to BCPL or before.

          BCPL is Basic* Combined Programming Language, is a cut down derivative from CPL, which was a concoction of elements from several previous languages including (IIRC) APL (Atlas Programming Language) and ACL (Atlas Commercial Language).

          * Basic in the 'fundamental' sense and nothing to do with BASIC.

        3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

          RE : @Dan 55

          There will no doubt be be lawyers supposedly representing the estates of Ada Lovelace and Charles Babbage preparing to sue the whole IT Industry into oblivion for serial copyright violations.

          I'm sure that they will find a way to link the difference engine to everything we do in IT today and then to claim the fights to everything that came after it.

      2. keithzg

        And since Google has since moved to using OpenJDK as the basis of their JVM, which is released and available from Oracle under the GPL with the classpath exception, this case will only ever be about damages Oracle can get from older versions of Android.

        1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

          Google has since moved to using OpenJDK as the basis of their JVM

          I don't think so. The JVM that comes out of a compilation of "OpenJDK" and the Dalvik successor sound VERY different indeed: https://source.android.com/devices/tech/dalvik/

          One is a stack machine, the other a register machine, for one.

      3. Steve Davies 3 Silver badge

        Oracle Enrichment

        Larry needs the money for that Island - Maui perhaps?

        Then add a white cat and ...

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Concur

      The way java is structured any sufficiently large project needs to have API contracts and APIs and SPIs portion.

      In C or C++ these are usually in the form of includes providing a relatively clean separation. In Java they written in ... Java and stapled with Oracle's copyright.

      The language syntax, key patterns, etc are deliberately designed to ensure that what is perfectly kosher in pretty much any other language would look like a copyright violation to a non-specialist.

      In fact, IMHO it is a deliberate design decision and part of the original Sun's and later Oracle strategy to give it the pretence of openness while exercising full control over it. It has been rigging the game day one.

      Now, Google frankly deserve anything they are going to get here for not seeing it day one. It is obvious. The amount of effort they have put into making Java into a proper language (just look how much Oracle stole from Guava in Java 8) would have made anything a good runtime. Python, Ruby - you name it.

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Paris Hilton

        Re: Concur

        The language syntax, key patterns, etc are deliberately designed to ensure that what is perfectly kosher in pretty much any other language would look like a copyright violation to a non-specialist.

        To a non-specialist, anything can look like anything.

        I don't see how Java is deliberately designed to trigger copyright minefields? It's bog-standard stuff from the early 90s, though Gosling apparently had a dumbass attack and forgot all about proper modularization which could be had in Modula-2 about 10 years earlier no problem.

        If you think C/C++ header files are "clean" you are wrong (they are also medieval but that's for another discussion). In fact, a good part of the "SCO owns Linux!!!" discussion was exactly about certain kernel header files containing apparently copied constants like "1" or "2" and suspiciously similar lines beginning with "/*" and other weird symbols (ok, I'm simplifying a bit here)

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Concur

        "The way java is structured any sufficiently large project needs to have API contracts and APIs and SPIs portion."

        Should Oracle win, however, they have the tricky task of doing so in a way that ensures that anyone writing a Java application (which they presumably still want people to do) can do so legitimately whilst preventing Google from legitimately implementing the run-time. If they fail in that they must surely kill Java stone dead.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Hard to know who to hate the most. But I guess I hope Slurp looses. They clearly made a crappy insecure OS by stealing Oracle's crappy insecure Java!

      1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Windows

        They clearly made a crappy insecure OS by stealing Oracle's crappy insecure Java!

        Well, I just hope this is "ironic" or you are really Homer Simpson.

        Otherwise, I hope for the sake of mankind that keep far away from IT. Or a jury. Or anything else for that matter. Don't push that button in front of you either.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        I guess I hope Slurp* looses the dogs of war on Oracle. I certainly don't hope Google loses because if they do then all code written now or in future that needs to recite the declarations from the libraries that it uses is in breach of copyright.

        *Isn't Slurp supposed to be Microsoft?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Isn't Slurp supposed to be Microsoft?

          No, the original Slurp is Google. MS just copied it with Windows 10.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      And the 11,000 lines was actually 9 lines, and Google removed them in android 4.

      https://fossbytes.com/9-lines-of-code-that-google-stole-from-oracle-java-android/

      Seems el-reg are just making stuff up, and desperately want oracle to win, as think not the clickbait advert revenues it's going to generate....

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Not really el reg but a certain author who would rather see APIs be copyrighted despite the massive harm to the software industry than see this case for what it is due to a certain dislike for Google.

        I mean the paragraph "this case hinges around whether Google should be permitted to copy Java without a licence. The copying is not in question: some 11,000 lines of Sun's Java code ended up in Android. The absence of a licence is not in question either. And emails show Android developers admitting that it's so close to Java they needed a licence."

        It is nothing to do with whether Google should be permitted to 'copy java' they didn't. The absence of a licence isn't in question but there is nothing from an Android developer 'admitting' it is so close that they need a licence. The engineer was asked to look at alternatives and said that they all sucked and it would be better to get a licence. No admission, just a non-legal comment from an engineer based around alternative. People at every workplace I have ever worked have made comment or opinion that isn't actually based in legal fact - a telephone operator might tell you they can't deal with an enquiry due to Data Protection laws but that doesn't mean it is legally true. Not only that the licence was for the JCK, which they didn't require as they weren't doing a fully working implementation of Java and didn't need compatibility.

        The lines of directly copied code = 9 by an engineer that had worked on the original code for Sun and was a section that would have been difficult to write another way unless you had to on purpose. The rest is all part of the headers and calling an API. Not the implementation of that API, just the structure.

        That's what an API is, a standardised interface.

        Let's also not forget that Java at the time was owned by Sun who were fine with Google's Android being closely related to it.

        Should I be sued for copyright infringement must if I just download the song titles of an Album from a torrent site but none of the actual music?

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "was actually 9 lines"

        "One tenth of 1 per cent was copied", said the Google lawyer. So, how large is Java, if 0.1% are 9 lines?

        Googlebots should be taught math...

  2. Alan J. Wylie

    Rosenkranz works for Orrick? Alas, no Guildenstern though.

    1. frank ly Silver badge

      I thought they were both dead.

      1. Mage Silver badge

        I thought they were both dead.

        Which? The one in Hamlet or the Princess Bride?

  3. Tom Paine Silver badge

    Nostalgia

    Oh, for the sun-dappled years of my youth, when we had enough spare time and curiosity, and the world was so short of diversions and distractions, that we had nothing better to do than follow epic court cases. Still got a screenshot of the Microsoft anti-trust ruling breaking on cnn.com. And whatever happened to SCO?

    1. G Mac

      Re: Nostalgia

      They're baaack:

      https://www.theregister.co.uk/2017/11/02/ibm_vs_sco_revives/

    2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

      Re: Nostalgia

      "And whatever happened to SCO?"

      They got taken over by a company that decided litigation was more productive than writing solid software and selling it at a price that could compete against the rather more incomplete offering that Linux was at the time. If the original SCO product hadn't been priced as a Veblen good, Linux would never have been more than a curiosity we'd now be striving to remember.

  4. hammarbtyp Silver badge

    11000 lines. Sounds a lot doesn't it? What Andew conveniently forgets to mention that there over 15 million lines in Java. Now assuming the 11000 are actual API calls, it seems hard to define this was large scale copying.

    Consistently through this case, it appear Andrew is fighting Oracles corner. I do miss the days of Groklaw when we actually find informed legal opinion rather than uninformed bias and hearsay

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      9 lines.

      https://fossbytes.com/9-lines-of-code-that-google-stole-from-oracle-java-android/

      1. Tom 7 Silver badge

        Re 9 lines

        anyone mirroring the API would come up with code completely similar to that.

        Well except me cos I'd never mirror Java.

    2. keithzg

      I do really really miss Groklaw. I followed along very closely day-by-day during the initial trial, and Groklaw put out so much detailed coverage of the trial that if I hadn't been working a slack retail job that had me staring at a computer all the time anyways I probably wouldn't have been able to keep up!

      Anyways, not sure what exactly the 11000 lines are (your bet that they're API calls seems likely), but they certainly aren't actual code actually copied, since Oracle was never able to prove in court that anything more had been copied than the 9 lines of rangeCheck, and in fact Oracle at the time agreed to $0 of damages on that after the jury agreed with its claims that the rangeCheck lines were in fact copied: http://www.groklaw.net/pdf3/OraGoogle-1210.pdf

      And of course, the idea of rangeCheck was even actually copied or would be complex enough of an expression of an idea soas to have copyright, well that's . . . questionable, to say the least. http://www.groklaw.net/articlebasic.php?story=20121127123047829

      THE COURT: Can I stop you on that part for a second? We heard the testimony of Mr. Bloch.

      MR. BOIES: Yes.

      THE COURT: All right. I have -- I was not good -- I couldn't have told you the first thing about Java before this trial. But, I have done and still do a lot of programming myself in other languages. I have written blocks of code like rangeCheck a hundred times or more. I could do it. You could do it. It is so simple.

      The idea that somebody copied that in order to get to market faster, when it would be just as fast to write it out, it was an accident that that thing got in there.

      There was no way that you could say that that was speeding them along to the marketplace. That is not a good argument.

      MR. BOIES: Your Honor --

      THE COURT: You're one of the best lawyers in America. How can you even make that argument?

      You know, maybe the answer is because you are so good it sounds legit. But it is not legit. That is not a good argument.

      MR. BOIES: Your Honor, let me approach it this way, first, okay. I want to come back to rangeCheck. All right.

      THE COURT: RangeCheck. All it does is it makes sure that the numbers you're inputting are within a range. And if they're not, they give it some kind of exceptional treatment. It is so -- that witness, when he said a high school student would do this, is absolutely right.

      MR. BOIES: He didn't say a high school student would do it in an hour, all right.

      THE COURT: Less than -- in five minutes, Mr. Boies.

      MR. BOIES: Well, Your Honor --

      THE COURT: If you know the language. Once you know the language, it is a five-minute proposition.

      (One thing I very much miss from Groklaw, and that nearly all other court coverage seems to miss, is actual transcripts.)

    3. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

      it appear Andrew is fighting Oracles corner

      You only need to look at who Oracles opponent is to work out which way he's going to jump. After all, he does have a somewhat tedious history of slagging off Google at every opportunity..

  5. tp2

    Well, it's clear infringement

    Here's one good test:

    1) is google freeriding someone elses market

    If you consider that java is used in 2 billion devices according to oracle, and google's android is another ecosystem, this doesnt seem to be overlapping.

    But the devices isn't the right market to consider. The whole issue with java apis is about development tools provided for application developers. There google is clearly freeriding on java's market. Noone would write applications to android, unless java programmers were _already familiar_ with java programming language and the apis. Oracle spent tons of money and effort getting whole market to use their technology instead of other available languages and apis.

    Now google got that access for free. Clearly freeriding oracle's java programmers market.

    Final issue is just whether software compability issues are significant enough that it should be allowed.

    1. Gerhard Mack

      Re: Well, it's clear infringement

      If that logic had been in place decades ago there would never been a clone of the API provided by IBM's PC BIOS so no PC clones. There would have been no MSDOS (CP/M) clone, no Linux or BSD (used AT&T's API) and no SQL servers.

      Oracle is aiming a giant cannon at it's own foot with this argument and if they win, they will also lose more than they gained and damage the entire foundation the software industry has been built on until now.

      1. Charles 9 Silver badge

        Re: Well, it's clear infringement

        Compaq beat IBM by rolling their own BIOS through Clean-Room Engineering.

        1. Gerhard Mack

          Re: Well, it's clear infringement

          "Compaq beat IBM by rolling their own BIOS through Clean-Room Engineering."

          While keeping complete compatibility with the API. Now imagine where we would be if the API itself had been copywriteable.

          1. Charles 9 Silver badge

            Re: Well, it's clear infringement

            The Clean-Room BIOS IIRC was done completely WITHOUT the API by using an actual chip's behavior to tell them what to do. Copyright can't apply against a coincidental copycat since BOTH could make legal claim.

        2. CrazyOldCatMan Silver badge

          Re: Well, it's clear infringement

          Compaq beat IBM by rolling their own BIOS through Clean-Room Engineering

          ..during which they recreated the BIOS API. A BIOS call worked the same on the IBM BIOS, the Compaq BIOS and all the other BIOSes - otherwise the compatible market would never have worked.

          So a call to 10h with a 0Ah parameter should print a character, regardless of who implemented the BIOS.

      2. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Well, it's clear infringement

        "There would have been no MSDOS (CP/M) clone"

        No CP/M - PDP8 clone. Maybe DEC would still have been riding high.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "If that logic had been in place"

        You need to learn the difference between an API and an ABI....

    2. hammarbtyp Silver badge

      Re: Well, it's clear infringement

      On that basis when a small company called Oracle ripped off IBM's SQL syntax, IBM could of taken them to the cleaners and where would Mr Ellison be finding the pocket change to buy a new island.

      It amazing how when small companies grow to be big companies they complain about the same thing which allowed them to grow in the 1st place

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: Well, it's clear infringement

        It amazing how when small companies grow to be big companies countries they complain about the same thing which allowed them to grow in the 1st place

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        "ripped off IBM's SQL syntax"

        Was it copyrighted? It also became an ANSI standard in 1986, and ISO/EC a year later...

        Anyway the issue here is not the use of Java syntax - is the copying of the Java libraries and APIs...

        It's also funny to see people who probably applauded when Sun stopped MS from bending Java to its needs, are now on Google's side which did the same. Fear to lose their precioussss smartphones?

        1. hammarbtyp Silver badge

          Re: "ripped off IBM's SQL syntax"

          Was it copyrighted? It also became an ANSI standard in 1986, and ISO/EC a year later...

          Copyright law does not work like that. There is "sweat of the brow" clause, which basically says that things have automatic copyright protection just through the effort of being produced. The protection is automatic, but you have to defend it if impinged. Its just that Copyright law has never been applied to code API's because...well it would be self defeating and stupid...not that has stopped Oracle

          Oracle produced there version in 1979. 7 years before the standard. However IBM understood the benefits of standards over propriety solutions , as did Sun, which is why it encouraged Googles uptake of the Java syntax

          "Anyway the issue here is not the use of Java syntax - is the copying of the Java libraries and APIs..."

          I'm not sure it is possible to separate the two in that way. The API's and syntax are basically the same side of the coin

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            "The API's and syntax are basically the same side of the coin"

            No, they aren't, just like an ABI is not an API.

            "sweat of the brow" is a doctrine, not a clause in copyright laws, and it is not automatic. It was, in fact, rejected several times.

            IBM likes only its own standards, and did sue PC clone makers, but the way Compaq and Phoenix developed their BIOS was safe. Franklin did copy enough Apple code, and lost.

            Sun did sue Microsoft because it didn't like the MS JVM...

            Also, beware of how far you're going to push this thing - because it could mean people could copy some code out of, say, GPL-licensed code, and imply the copyright is not valid?

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Well, it's clear infringement

      "Oracle spent tons of money and effort getting whole market to use their technology instead of other available languages and apis."

      You know Java was developed and marketed by Sun - the same company who gave their approval for Google's API implementations?

  6. Sam Adams the Dog

    Been there, done that

    The federal appeals court that Oracle is appealing to previously took on an appeal by Oracle, which resulted in their remanding the case back to the district court for trial. The result was a unanimous jury decision for Google, which Oracle is now appealing. Which means that they have to get the federal appeals court to agree that no fair jury could possibly have rendered such a decision. Well, if so, it would seems that the federal court would have summarily ruled in their favor on the previous appeal. Aside from the merits of the case, the history does not augur well for Oracle.

  7. Morrie Wyatt
    Flame

    C++ --

    When you take into account that Sun originally touted Java as being "C++ --" it was built directly upon the syntax and power of C++ (and C before it), but added on garbage collection to mitigate memory leaks, (their reasoning behind the --) Java can't really stand on the high ground of "Original Code".

    It is (allegedly) a progression from the work of those that came before.

    Now when Google created their own runtime engine, that used the same basic Java code syntax and function naming conventions, with the explicit blessings of Sun, later bought by Oracle, Oracle now choose to cry foul?

    The mobile JRE produced by Sun / Oracle had many inclusions that had absolutely no use in the Android marketplace, but Oracle demanded that to use Java in the mobile space mandated the use of their Mobile JRE (with ongoing royalties), so Google chose to develop their own runtime engine, Dalvik, which they specifically do not call a JRE as it doesn't implement the full Java specification, or claim to be a Java engine.

    Now Oracle claim that because it uses Java like syntax and naming (C++ -- anyone?) that Google is infringing upon their copyright.

    Neither Pot or Kettle are without their optical spectrum absorption properties here, but Oracle's greed on this one would move all programming back into the dark ages, as nobody could program anything without fear of being sued for copyright infringement because multiplication and division get called from the "Math" library, and user the characters * and / respectively. (Clearly infringing upon the API copyright rather than just being a sensible aggregation of like processes with a logically descriptive library name. That is basically what Oracle are arguing.)

    And don't get me started on software patents!

    (I sincerely miss the wonderful work of Pamela Jones and Groklaw on topics such as this.)

  8. Walter Bishop Silver badge
    Facepalm

    The solution for Google

    The solution for Google is to totally divest its involvement in Android and acknowledge Microsoft as the sole owners of all intellectual property in Android, that way Oracle would have to go after Microsoft.

    Didn't Scott McNealy kinda declare Java Open Source before Sun was sold to Oracle? Of course Oracle couldn't go after Google if Java was Open Source in the first place. When you 'license' software from a commercial company, the company owns you.

    "The purchase price of software is kind of like the first hit of heroin: It's free" Scott McNealy

    List Of Companies That Pay Royalties To Microsoft For Using Android OS

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The solution for Google

      " that way Oracle would have to go after Microsoft"

      Erm, no. Microsoft don't sell any Android devices.

      1. Walter Bishop Silver badge
        Terminator

        Re: The solution for Google

        Erm, no. Microsoft don't sell any Android devices.

        Except Microsoft is extracting revenue from the sellers of the Android devices.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: The solution for Google

          "Except Microsoft is extracting revenue from the sellers of the Android devices."

          Which would be the only other option available to Oracle. That sellers license other stuff from Microsoft is utterly irrelevant to that they also use Java.

      2. Richard Plinston Silver badge

        Re: The solution for Google

        > Erm, no. Microsoft don't sell any Android devices.

        Microsoft did sell Android devices..

        Nokia developed a couple of Android phones under the name Nokia-X just before they sold to Microsoft. These continued to be made and sold, briefly, as Microsoft-X after the buyout.

        https://www.theverge.com/2014/2/24/5440498/nokia-x-android-phone-hands-on

      3. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
        Trollface

        Re: The solution for Google

        DO you mean "Microsoft couldn't sell any Android devices"

        Ok, ok, I'm going back to Haskell..

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The solution for Google

      If Microsoft patents have nothing to do with Java, but with other features implemented in Android - in any language (i.e. 6,999,047 "Locating and tracking a user in a wireless network through environmentally profiled data.", or 5,982,324, "combining GPS with cell signals in an efficient position location system"),

      Oracle has really nothing to go after... and Google and OEM have to cough up the money, they would lose any litigation.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can we *please* have articles about oracle vs google submitted by an independent third party rather than oracleowski?

    All of his articles are either anti google or pro oracle, facts be damned.

    Hardly a good base for truth.

  10. Christian Berger Silver badge

    Why did they even choose Java?

    I mean, seriously most Apps either are so trivial they could be written in some cut-back GUI language, or they deliver their code as a binary blob of machine code.

    Now the big problem with using Java or any other "modern" "OOP" language is that its programmers typically haven't reached a level of maturity yet where they understand that complexity is evil. Therefore you have dozends of components involved in doing simple things like turning on the vibrator motor. The result is a fairly slow system, full of security critical bugs.

  11. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

    "One of Big Red's arguments is that Android destroyed the market opportunity for Sun to license a decent mobile Java."

    I thought the reason Google went for a roll-your-own approach was their view that Sun had a decent* Java and a mobile Java and they weren't the same thing.

    *Argue amongst yourselves about about "decent" if you want to.

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