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Microsoft, BSA and Others Push For Appeal On Oracle v. Google Ruling 191

Posted by timothy
from the poor-innocent-business-model dept.
sl4shd0rk writes "In 2012, Oracle took Google to court over the use of Java in Android. Judge William Alsup brought the ruling that the structure of APIs could not be copyrighted at all. Emerging from the proceedings, it was learned that Alsup himself had some programming background and wasn't bedazzled by Oracle's thin arguments on the range-checking function. The ruling came, programmers rejoiced and Oracle vowed Appeal. It seems that time is coming now, nearly a year later, as Microsoft, BSA, EMC, Netapp, et al. get behind Oracle to overturn Alsup's ruling citing 'destabilization' of the 'entire software industry.'"
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Microsoft, BSA and Others Push For Appeal On Oracle v. Google Ruling

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  • "Destablization" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sycodon (149926) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @06:58PM (#42973533)

    Means "we've built an industry by holding our boot to your necks. Now how will we accumulate billions?"

    • by buybuydandavis (644487) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @08:54PM (#42974479)

      "citing 'destabilization' of the 'entire software industry."

      They say that like it's a bad thing.

      • by Jane Q. Public (1010737) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @09:12PM (#42974621)

        "They say that like it's a bad thing."

        Yeah. Even if it might not be desirable, "destabilization of the industry" is NOT a legal argument.

        Our legal system was not designed as a support for any particular kind of business model. Especially one that is inherently predatory and against the public interest. One might even say that, since it would be another restriction on software, allowing an API itself to be copyrighted is contrary to the interest of the industry as a whole.

        • by Runaway1956 (1322357) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @11:02PM (#42975383) Homepage Journal

          "Our legal system was not designed as a support for any particular kind of business model" except banking.

        • by Genda (560240)

          "Destabilizing" in this case is a euphemism for restricting my corporate freedom to anally violate my customers. And it has a direct impact on the size of my next bonus, so by all means, use every legal and social weapon in the arsenal to overturn this odious decision.

          Feminists complain that America is a rape culture. Men's rights advocates cry bull$h!t. While the Fortune 100 does the deed with impunity and most American are completely oblivious to who's actually screwing them.

        • Yeah. Even if it might not be desirable, "destabilization of the industry" is NOT a legal argument

          And even if it was a legal argument, it's a complete lie.

          Claiming that maintaining the status quo which has been in place since the beginning and not making a massive, pervasive change could be a destabilising change is a total utter lie.

  • by Umuri (897961) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @07:00PM (#42973559)

    You mean just the BSA?

    I mean maybe it's just me, but why is it ok for one entity to object multiple times to the same case and have it count as a a widespread rejection just because they've created several shell companies to espouse their ideas? i mean how many times have we seen "numerous" organizations write into a court case only to later find out they're all being paid by a single entity with a vested interest?

    Legal Reform Idea: Any objection to a case must be done by individual companies, not group membership, and must declare conflict of interest

  • Destabilization (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PPH (736903) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @07:00PM (#42973561)

    Like the hell POSIX [wikipedia.org] brought down upon the industry.

    • Re:Destabilization (Score:5, Insightful)

      by MozeeToby (1163751) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @07:45PM (#42973957)

      That's what I was thinking. They claim that a Google win would devastate the industry, I claim an Oracle win would do the same. Do they have any idea how much of the world's technology is built on common API's? Their own included?

      • Re:Destabilization (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jkroll (32063) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @09:28PM (#42974735)

        That's what I was thinking. They claim that a Google win would devastate the industry, I claim an Oracle win would do the same. Do they have any idea how much of the world's technology is built on common API's? Their own included?

        Couldn't agree more. Wouldn't be ironic if MS' support for Oracle helps them win the appeal. Then Oracle turns around and sues MS by claiming the original .NET implementation violated the Java API copyright.

        The only way Oracle should deserve to win this copyright case is if they had shown Google copied large parts of the actual Java implementation into their software. The API claim they are making is almost as bad as a musician claiming copyright over all songs written in the key of C.

        • by sapphire wyvern (1153271) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @11:21PM (#42975533)

          Meanwhile, Microsoft would claim all the songs written in C#.

          A major victory, or a minor inconvenience?

        • Re:Destabilization (Score:5, Informative)

          by Xest (935314) on Friday February 22, 2013 @04:32AM (#42977093)

          This is Ballmer logic at work, he can't see the road ahead. All he knows is that Google out-innovated them on search and mobile and he wants that destroyed, whatever the cost.

          He's a bit like Steve Jobs in that respect, only without the ability to grow profits at all.

          • by steelfood (895457)

            He's a bit like Steve Jobs in that respect, only without a vision.

            FTFY.

            If you build it, they will come. The problem is that Ballmer doesn't have a cluse as to what he should build.

        • Couldn't agree more. Wouldn't be ironic if MS' support for Oracle helps them win the appeal. Then Oracle turns around and sues MS by claiming the original .NET implementation violated the Java API copyright.

          Indeed, now THAT would be poetic justice, and a classic case of what can happen when "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" thinking predominates.
          There's no love lost between Microsoft and Oracle, both of which were created by two of the most unpleasant and savagely unprincipled businessmen ever, (yup, Bill & Larry, I do mean you), but there's one thing they hate and fear more than each other : Google.

          Suck it up boys; I'm loving it here, munching my popcorn.

    • Exactly my thought. Microsoft ships SFU, which implements POSIX and parts of the Single UNIX Specification. NetApp and EMC both ship products based on FreeBSD, which implements most of the Single UNIX Specification. None of these are certified UNIX(R). And they want to hand The Open Group the right to sue them?
    • You forgot this:
      © 2001 Portable Applications Standards Committee, IEEE Computer Society

  • Well there you go (Score:5, Insightful)

    by razorshark (2843829) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @07:01PM (#42973573)

    Everyone's been telling me (not here, just everyone else on the web) that Microsoft is better now - that they aren't quite the assholes they were in the 90's/early 2000's. There we were thinking the worst was behind them with their support for open standards on the web and not trying to kill kittens in their sleep. That if anyone still hated them in 2013 that they were being difficult, stubborn, misguided and childish.

    Think I'll stay away from Neowin for a while.

    • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 21, 2013 @07:41PM (#42973925)

      Yep. Their faces must surely be red now.

      Never. EVER. Trust Microsoft. Ever.

      They have done this crap before, and they will do it again.

      Hell, the do it every other damn OS release and trick millions of idiots in to getting it because "they fixed everything".
      Did they hell, you think they fixed everything, they just made the last OS not hell. Doesn't stop the new one from being anything less than still hellish.
      Just watch as so many idiots eat up Windows 9 when it comes out to "fix" everything wrong with Windows 8 when all it would have likely done was replace Metro with a start menu an few other fixes that would have been in any general service pack.
      Hell, Windows 7 was literally a service pack that got renamed and they forgot to remove it from the registry in an RC.

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Never. EVER. Trust Microsoft. Ever.

        They have done this crap before, and they will do it again.

        s/Microsoft/Apple/
        s/Microsoft/Google/
        s/Microsoft/Canonical/
        s/Microsoft/Any Software Corporation/

        Like it or not, businesses will sacrifice any law, ideal or morality upon the altar of profit, if only because their competitors are doing the same thing.

        Is Apple not evil, with a walled garden and app censorship?

        Is Google not evil, with usurping AdWord revenue, kowtowing to China, collecting information without end user knowledge?

        Is Canonical not... Well, I guess lolAmazonIntegration isn't evil, more like stup

        • by Genda (560240)

          Every time I run into a Fundy who has problems with evolution. I find one of these bruhahas, gently grab the Fundy's head and say "You see those guys over there slinging handfuls of shit, tell me in any meaningful way how they differ from Chimpanzees? Didn't think so." And another soul is forced to confront secular rationality.

    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by amicusNYCL (1538833)

      Everyone's been telling me (not here, just everyone else on the web) that Microsoft is better now - that they aren't quite the assholes they were in the 90's/early 2000's.

      In all fairness to Microsoft's formerly-evil self, the new Microsoft certainly is "better", and they aren't "quite" the assholes they used to be, even considering this. It's like they've gone from chaotic evil to neutral evil.

      • Re:Well there you go (Score:5, Interesting)

        by MrDoh! (71235) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @08:20PM (#42974257) Homepage Journal
        I'd (humbly) argue that they're just as evil as before, they're just not as good at is as they used to be. Everyone's on to them, so many people have been burned by their antics, and people see other routes to A) avoid falling into MS's trap again B) enjoy a bit of revenge. It's not just Bill leaving, the company as a whole, just doesn't do evil as well.
        • by Xest (935314) on Friday February 22, 2013 @04:40AM (#42977125)

          Actually I think they do it better.

          Previously they were naive and did it openly, honestly, seeing Bill's face I think he just thought he was engaging in good old capitalism at the time and his opponents were just bitter he'd won.

          Nowadays however they play it like the bad boys, they lobby like crazy, and they fund massive shill campaigns. They pay millions to defame competitors like Google and so forth.

          I actually think the old Microsoft was less harmful - everything they did wrong they at least wore on their sleeve. Now they're fighting a kind of subversive shadow war, making politicians puppets, engaging in political corruption, subverting standards processes and so forth.

          I don't like this new Microsoft, as they're behind a lot of the bad stuff that goes on in the technology world such as patent trolling, bad laws getting lobbied for/passed, but at first look, it's not so obvious that it's them behind it until the evidence creeps out which sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't.

          Given Bill's modern philanthropic streak I can't help but wonder if the irony of it all is that he may actually have been a positive influence on Microsoft, and it was Ballmer pushing the evil side all along, because since Bill left it's gone from playing rough to outright corruption of national institutions - governments and so forth.

      • by alvinrod (889928) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @08:45PM (#42974423)
        I don't even think that Microsoft cares about the ruling. They just want to screw over Google in any way that they possibly can. If the sides were flipped, Microsoft would change their argument. It's all about making Android as expensive as possible so that the third party handset manufacturers dump it in favor of Windows Phone.
        • by sincewhen (640526)

          I disagree. Microsoft don't have too much going for them these days, but one of the few things they do have is the momentum of Windows being the defacto standard operating system.

          However, if someone could develop a drop-in replacement for Windows which was compatible with all the APIs, and thus could run all the existing Windows software, customers (individuals, companies and PC manufacturers) wouldn't need to go to Microsoft any more.

          That would rapidly be the end of Microsoft. And I think they know it.

          • However, if someone could develop a drop-in replacement for Windows which was compatible with all the APIs

            Have you just described the goal of Wine?

          • by silanea (1241518)
            Like Wine? Or ReactOS? Or replacements for individual components, like Samba or Mono? Microsoft needs competition within its ecosystem, if only to fend off antitrust investigations. Just not from an entity actually powerful enough to compete over paying customers. Like, say, Google.
            • pretty much hit the nail on the head, android and chrome os are scaling up nicely and doing cool things. It started with a phone scaled up to tablets and is moving forward into laptop land. Microsoft never really had much to compete with before. Apple was always priced too high to be a full blown competitor, Linux used to be hard really hard to get to grips with. Ubuntu made Linux easy although it seemed to lose its way for a while.

              I personally think the new Ubuntu tablet/desktop systems could be remarkabl

      • by drinkypoo (153816)

        I'd say they went from neutral evil to chaotic evil. They always just did whatever they wanted to do. Now they are also bugshit crazy (DEVELOPERS! WATCH OUT FOR THAT CHAIR!)

    • by dido (9125)

      I beg to differ. They're every bit the same assholes they were in the late nineties/early 2000's. But they certainly have changed. Remember that old adage about malice and incompetence? These days however, it looks more like Microsoft has become malice and incompetence rolled into one, which makes them much more the object of ridicule than terror the way they were in their heyday.

    • by GPierce (123599)

      It's relative. Microsoft is still as evil as ever, but they have been outclassed in the evil department by everyone else - with Apple leading the way and Oracle and Google struggling to catch up.

    • Microsoft is still evil, they're just not as relevant. The fastest growing market segments for the last five years have been mobile and server, where Microsoft is a relatively small player. Their lock-in on Office documents is eroding as more people realise that you don't want to use a document type that records history as an interchange format. Companies like Facebook, Apple and Google have a lot more influence these days.
  • HAAAAATE (Score:5, Insightful)

    by i kan reed (749298) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @07:05PM (#42973615) Homepage Journal

    I'm filled with an all consuming hate for some reason. Oh yes. I know why. It's like trying to copyright the idea of a recipe for chocolate cake instead of the particular recipe you devised. These companies deserve to be dissolved. Not even kidding.

  • by MightyMartian (840721) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @07:08PM (#42973649) Journal

    Isn't there pretty strong case law against copyrighting APIs? It strikes me that there's not a whole lot to appeal here.

    • by Zordak (123132)

      Isn't there pretty strong case law against copyrighting APIs? It strikes me that there's not a whole lot to appeal here.

      No, there isn't. That's the whole point. The judge made some new law. Now it's been appealed to the Federal Circuit. Once the Federal Circuit rules, we'll have some law on whether APIs are protected by copyright.

      • by Xtifr (1323)

        There is little precedent, but it all uniformly against copyrighting APIs. The judge didn't make some new law. He, in fact, refused to make a new law declaring APIs copyrightable, which would have been completely without precedent. Not just mostly.

        • by nedwidek (98930)

          Unfortunately, he didn't go full out and say they weren't. He said in some cases they MAY be copyrightable, but not in this case. What we need is a clear precedent that says the name, arguments, and behavior is not copyrightable. The implementation is. So it is a fact that Hashtable lives in java.util. It's member methods and their arguments are facts. Key and value not being able to be null is a fact. Put all the facts together and create your own implementation.

          Saying that behaviors and facts are somehow

          • by Zordak (123132)
            Actually, he did say quite explicitly that the name, arguments, and behavior of individual methods are not copyrightable. Oracle argued that their organization of 6,000 methods into 300 classes in 37 packages was a copyrightable "taxonomy." It wasn't a silly argument. It really could have gone either way. But in this case, the judge ruled that that taxonomy was an essential part of the Java language itself, and so anybody making an implementation of Java needed to be free to replicate it. I did a white pape [jw.com]
        • by Zordak (123132)

          There is little precedent, but it all uniformly against copyrighting APIs. The judge didn't make some new law. He, in fact, refused to make a new law declaring APIs copyrightable, which would have been completely without precedent. Not just mostly.

          I don't know what law you're referring to, but whatever it is, the judge didn't cite it in his opinion, nor does it appear in any of the legal articles I've read on the case. There was case law that the judge referred back to, but none of it was specifically about copying an API. It was about things like replicating menu hierarchies and overall functionality. And there's nothing wrong with judges making new law. They do it all the time. It's part of their job. What people have a problem with (including me)

  • by JDG1980 (2438906) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @07:08PM (#42973653)

    The Software Mafia's argument is the exact opposite of the truth. Up until now, everyone has generally assumed that APIs could not be copyrighted, and overturning that finding would be incredibly destabilizing and harmful to the industry, as it would redefine as "infringement" practices that have been considered perfectly acceptable for over 30 years.

    • by masternerdguy (2468142) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @07:14PM (#42973721)
      It would put an end to WINE and ReactOs (although react never got off the ground).
      • by Khyber (864651)

        React never got off the ground? It's still rolling along just fine.

      • by dissy (172727) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @08:24PM (#42974285)

        Wine? It would put an end to Windows, Office, Exchange, Active Directory (all things created by other people/companies) and Microsoft is handing them a the copyright over.

        Oracle DB would be done for as well, as SQL will now be copyrighted by the people that created it and not Oracle. Not to mention all the other software Oracle claims is theirs.

        The only possibly good thing is that pretty much not a single company in the US will own their own technology, since there has never in the past been a need to transfer copyright ownership for these APIs from the person that invented it to a company.
        Since no transfers have ever happened, no companies at all would control the things they sell.

        Destroying every aspect of capitalism with one moronic legal claim.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Not every API, just 'special' ones you see? And only the indices of certain books... Next up, Microsoft council to explain the concept of being "a little bit pregnant".

    • by rb12345 (1170423) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @09:11PM (#42974617)
      Finding APIs copyrightable could get extremely interesting if parts of HTML5 or new network protocols count and were implemented in GPL-licenced code first... Would that essentially prevent Microsoft and Apple from legally implementing those standards?
  • by SoupGuru (723634) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @07:10PM (#42973679)

    With all those players on one side of the issue, it's pretty easy choose sides... even if you don't know what the issue at hand is.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday February 21, 2013 @07:10PM (#42973681)

    Too bad there's no giant meteor to wipe out this batch of dinosaurs.

  • by david.emery (127135) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @07:15PM (#42973727)

    Any vendor of a Unix based operating system (including Apple, HP and IBM) should in fairness oppose this motion because they've all been very successful selling systems based on an open API. And that's just one example. I'm sure there are examples from the Graphics/GPU world.

  • Ethics (Score:5, Insightful)

    by labnet (457441) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @07:17PM (#42973751)

    Remember, most businesses ethics are only governed by what their government has legislated. There are always execptions but this is the general rule. This is why the USA is having so many structural problems. By making being elected such an expensive exercise, a politician who's most important priority is re-election, needs funding from corporate sponsors. This creates an obigation to support those sponsors, which creates legislation to support corporates over the public interest which courts must enforce.
    The best thing to happen for American Politics is to break the obligation cycle. I'll leave that to others on how you would achieve that.

  • Judge Awesome (Score:5, Interesting)

    by CuteSteveJobs (1343851) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @07:19PM (#42973765)
    > Judge William Alsup himself had some programming background and wasn't bedazzled by Oracle's thin arguments on the range-checking function.
    At long last, an awesome judge. Many other decisions from the courts about IP reflect minds still set in the stone age. Check into him. We may have a hero.

    > Microsoft, BSA, EMC, Netapp, et al. get behind Oracle to overturn Alsup's ruling citing 'destabilization' of the 'entire software industry.'
    Well that is funny. Microsoft, a company becoming irrelevant, could end up locking itself out of future markets.

    > The ruling came, programmers rejoiced and Oracle vowed Appeal.
    On careful reflection I think it is better if Oracle goes and fucks itself.
    • by mdmkolbe (944892)

      Alsup for Supreme Court!

      Seriously though, this judge spent a good bit of time doing the legal research needed to produce a solid ruling. He knew it would be appealed so he included stuff in it to keep the appeals court from having the wool pulled over their eyes.

  • Oracle's stock price has dropped $.49 for the week or .018 percent. Google stock price has dropped $10.45 for the week or .017 percent. So the court decision’s have not a major impact of their stock values.

    Did Oracle also have a copyright on the ConvertToPercent function?

  • by sk999 (846068) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @07:23PM (#42973795)

    The only way to bring stability to the software industry is to make sure that compatible APIs are outlawed. You know, like what we had during the UNIX Wars http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Unix_wars [wikipedia.org]

  • oh everyone's having fun with that word today. My take: "'destabilization' of the outdated, abusive-to-the-public, outdated business model still being relied on by a large portion of the software industry, including us.'"

    But how they said it is so much shorter.

  • by dgatwood (11270) on Thursday February 21, 2013 @08:38PM (#42974369) Journal

    Well, pedantically (but not legally), they are correct. There is creativity involved in designing an API. The problem is that an API is also a functional element. According to case law precedents, functional elements (e.g. chip masks) are protected only if there is more than one way to do something. By definition, it is not possible to create something that is functionally compatible with an API without copying everything that makes that API a creative work (everything but the parameter names, essentially), and therefore it cannot be protected under copyright law under any circumstances. There simply are no situations in which allowing copyright to protect API would not result in a substantial judicial overreach that dramatically expands the scope of copyright.

    Put another way, an API is the software equivalent to the shape of a connector. Just as a connector is the physical interface for electrically connecting one thing to another, an API is the software interface for programmatically connecting one piece of software to another. There is no less creativity involved in the design of a connector than in the design of an API. Therefore, given that you can patent connectors, but you cannot copyright them, this lawsuit has exactly zero chance of success.

    I am of the opinion that the BSA's appeal should be declared frivolous, and that they should be spanked with a hefty fine for bringing this lawsuit in the first place. That would set a strong precedent that such absurd abuse of copyright in an attempt to protect obviously non-copyrightable things will not be tolerated.

    • by dgatwood (11270)

      Small correction. The BSA isn't actually doing anything other than filing amicus briefs. Oracle is doing the suing. So Oracle should be spanked with a fine for bringing the lawsuit in the first place.

  • by golodh (893453) on Friday February 22, 2013 @09:31AM (#42978591)
    I'm offended by the extremist views taken by companies like Oracle and Microsoft on what is or is not copyrightable. Recognising non-literal copying is simply equivalent to recognising copyright on ideas.

    I wonder if anyone has considered the position of a professor (full, associate, or assistant) who teaches a course.

    Students who follow that course learn (among other things) intellectual concepts, structure, sequence, and organisation of algorithms to solve certain problems. Much of that can be found in the literature, but not everything. Some of that is what the professor thought of and added. And that literature is usually copyrighted too

    Now the student graduates, goes away, and applies those concepts, structure, sequence, and organisation to solving problems in the real world, possibly even writing software that incorporates knowledge learned in university.

    Can I (plus anyone who has contributed to the literature) now ask that student (read: the company employing him/her) to buy a license for the copyrights on the non-literal copying of what I taught that student?

    One might argue that the tuition fee covers this, and that hence the student indemnifies his/her employer against me in regard of using what he learned. Fair enough. But now his employer asks my ex-student to pour his knowledge into software. Software that will continue to work (and may even be sold) long after my ex-student has moved on in his/her career, or even left the company. Why should that be covered? One could very well argue that the tuition fee only covers my student's personal use of that specific part in his knowledge that I and others contributed, no? I foresee interesting legal discussions on the topic, and my guess is that many a college president and many a commercial publisher would like to have this possibility scrutinised very closely.

    I think that if the court decides to recognise non-literal copying precisely this idea *will* be scrutinised by the parties I mentioned. And it's no good threatening no to hire US graduates anymore because we're talking about tons of stuff that has already made its way into commercial software over decades.

    It's only fair that universities (producers of knowledge) and publishers (purveyors of knowledge) should protect their valuable intellectual property, right?

  • Pound the table and shriek about the end of civilization as we know it.

Man is the best computer we can put aboard a spacecraft ... and the only one that can be mass produced with unskilled labor. -- Wernher von Braun

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