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Google Didn't Ship Relicensed Java Code After All 223

Posted by Soulskill
from the deeper-looks dept.
RedK writes "In a follow up to yesterday's news about Google apparently relicensing confidential Oracle code found in Java under the ASL, it seems that the blogger who initially reported the issue was plain wrong, as the files he indicated were in breach of Oracle's copyright do not actually ship with Android. Google has also deleted many of these files, which were mostly used as unit tests."
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Google Didn't Ship Relicensed Java Code After All

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  • by FlorianMueller (801981) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @03:09PM (#34966606) Homepage

    I'll do a couple of follow-up posts on my blog these days to respond to some of the misconceptions and misinformation out there.

    My blog never made a specific claim about Android devices containing certain code. From a copyright law point of view, however, putting software online for everyone to download means "to distribute", or "to ship", such code, and distributing, or shipping, infringing code makes someone liable.

    Ed Burnette, whose post is referenced here, does not seem to understand even basic copyright-related terminology and concepts. He's wrong on almost everything he wrote and I'll debunk itI already left some comments below his article.

    It's also wrong, as stated above, that Google "deleted" those files. They are still in the Froyo (Android 2.2) and Gingerbread (2.3) trees. At least they were when I last checked, which was yesterday. They are just not in the tree for future versions.

    There is so much out there that's wrong, and I'll deal with it step by step.

  • Re:Irrelevant (Score:4, Informative)

    by UnknowingFool (672806) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @03:20PM (#34966688)
    If you read the summary and not just the article, you'd see that Google did not ship them with Android. They were located in the source files if someone bothered to go to the source files that Google had on their site and look for them. They were also copies of files that Sun released but instead of merely using them someone had decompiled and deconstructed them. Somewhere along the way a different copyright got pasted on them. Google also removed them from the tree with the comment "remove pointless test files".
  • wait a second.. (Score:5, Informative)

    by milkmage (795746) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @03:23PM (#34966718)

    this seems like a perfectly valid counter to the zdnet piece:

    http://www.engadget.com/2011/01/21/android-source-code-java-and-copyright-infringement-whats-go/ [engadget.com]

    From a legal perspective, it seems very likely that these files create increased copyright liability for Google, because the state of our current copyright law doesn't make exceptions for how source code trees work, or whether or not a script pasted in a different license, or whether these files made it into handsets. The single most relevant legal question is whether or not copying and distributing these files was authorized by Oracle, and the answer clearly appears to be "nope" -- even if Oracle licensed the code under the GPL. Why? Because somewhere along the line, Google took Oracle's code, replaced the GPL language with the incompatible Apache Open Source License, and distributed the code under that license publicly. That's all it takes -- if Google violated the GPL by changing the license, it also infringed Oracle's underlying copyright. It doesn't matter if a Google employee, a script, a robot, or Eric Schmidt's cat made the change -- once you've created or distributed an unauthorized copy, you're liable for infringement.*

  • by Homburg (213427) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @03:30PM (#34966766) Homepage

    Statutory damages [wikipedia.org], probably. "The basic level of damages is between $750 and $30,000 per work," but "statutory damages are only available in the United States for works that were registered with the Copyright Office prior to infringement." If they can't claim statutory damages, they would probably only be able to claim either lost earnings, or whatever profit Google made from the infringing distribution, neither of which are likely to add up to very much.

  • Re:Irrelevant (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 22, 2011 @03:55PM (#34966928)

    If you read what you're replying to, you'll see that he wrote "whether or not it shipped in a handset", not "since it shipped in a handset". You said that the files were available on a public web server, so to disprove the parent you have to show that they were never downloaded.

  • by BearRanger (945122) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @04:02PM (#34966956)
    Wasn't Android the result of Google's purchase of a smaller company? Given that it's unlikely Eric Schmidt had any say in the initial technology choices behind Android.
  • Re:Still... (Score:5, Informative)

    by Daniel Phillips (238627) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @04:45PM (#34967258)

    Sounds much like you're trolling. Copyrighted files can be distributed if the copyright holder allows it.

  • Re:Relevant (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bigjeff5 (1143585) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @05:16PM (#34967462)

    Fines/Damages/Fees/"Whatever your legal system calls it" usually depend on how often you copied it and what money you made from it.

    Weather you intended to violate copyright or not factors in as well (though it has no bearing on guilt or innocence).

    The range of damages for copyright violation is anywhere from 1$ to $150,000 per work infringed.

    It also matters if they were registered with the US Copyright Office. Copyright is automatic, but you cannot claim statutory damages without registration. All that is left available to you are punative damages, and since Google clearly did not intend any harm, and since any distribution of the files was likely accidental, Oracle isn't likely to see very much money for their trouble.

    It's also worth noting that damages are awarded per work, not per instance of infringement (i.e. if someone shares a song a million times it's only one case of infringement). Since any distribution by hardware manufacturers is only due to Google's initial distribution, the very worst Oracle could do is make them share the maximum $150k per work with Google. They can't get extra damages for each manufacturer.

    This [ipinbrief.com] is an informative article about the current state of copyright statutory damages. The same author has a more in-depth "primer for non-lawyers" here. [ipinbrief.com]

    This is really pretty pathetic. Even if 1,000 files were infringed on, the absolute maximum Oracle can get for all cases involving Android is $150 million. That's combined, not individually. Even the most egregious cases rarely elicit the maximum, so they're really probably looking about $50-60 million, tops.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday January 22, 2011 @05:21PM (#34967494)

    Yes, it is. The correct name is AOSP, or more correctly, the AOSP repository. You could get away with 'Android repository' but that would be confusing. Android is a term given to a set of derived operating systems. It is neither open source nor a codebase (most Android distributions are closed source).

  • by Daniel Phillips (238627) on Saturday January 22, 2011 @05:30PM (#34967564)

    It's also wrong, as stated above, that Google "deleted" those files. They are still in the Froyo (Android 2.2) and Gingerbread (2.3) trees. At least they were when I last checked, which was yesterday. They are just not in the tree for future versions.

    Wow Florian, that's a creative interpretation of "not deleted". I presume that you mean, a user can still check out an older repository version and that version would contain the files in question. Let me make an equally creative counter-proposition. If the files were deleted from the tip of the repository but not from the history, that simply provides a historical record of exactly what was deleted. You can't make the information vanish from the past you know, unless you are also proposing some kind of time travel. You can only make information vanish from the present, that is, tip of tree.

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