Oracle v. Google: APIs Ruled NOT Copyrightable

Bigger than the trial jury’s rejection of Oracle’s patent claims against Android, Judge Aslup has further ruled that no API is copyrightable.  Groklaw again with the goods:

From the commentary:

The sky has been full of FUD about this topic, with folks, both self-styled experts and even a lawyer who has done work for Microsoft claiming that APIs have been copyrightable for years and years, throwing cases at us and examples of terms of use. Terms of use don’t make law, ladies and gents and experts and lawyers… if you continue to listen to such FUDsters after this total repudiation of everything they wrote about this case, please see your doctor right away.

This is an important decision and, barring reversal, it enables U.S. innovators to re-engineer and improve software components without exposing themselves to copyright liability.  (If you’ve been hacking on a proprietary ILS, please, continue.)  It cannot be overstated how badly Oracle lost.   This was an incredibly high profile and high stakes case, and it was expensive.  They had chances to get minor payouts and go home and they kept doubling down.  Now they haven’t just lost this one, they’ve lost an entire class of copyright protection that they imagined was the basis of the case.  As of now, it does not exist.  For anybody.

Oracle will no doubt appeal, but Judge Aslup has been so thorough, methodical and technically detailed that I regard their chances as marginal.  Entire sections of the decision were written (and indeed entire portions of the trial conducted) with the appeals court as the intended audience.  It isn’t exactly doubling down again since they’ve already eliminated all other options, but srsly Oracle, good luck with that.

Now if we could only see a similar eradication of overly broad software patents, we might really see some strategic changes in industry.

About Joe Atzberger

Joe Atzberger (atz) is a library hacker in Palo Alto, CA. He worked with Galen at both LibLime and Equinox Software, Inc. as an open source developer on Koha and Evergreen. Joe currently works on Hydra and institutional digital repository infrastructure at Stanford.

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