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Java Oracle The Courts

Oracle Clings To Java API Copyrights 207

Posted by samzenpus
from the hold-on-tight dept.
An anonymous reader writes in with a story about some of the ramifications of the Oracle-Google lawsuit. "You could hear a collective sigh of relief from the software developer world when Judge William Alsup issued his ruling in the Oracle-Google lawsuit. Oracle lost on pretty much every point, but the thing that must have stuck most firmly in Oracle’s throat was this: 'So long as the specific code used to implement a method is different, anyone is free under the Copyright Act to write his or her own code to carry out exactly the same function or specification of any methods used in the Java API. It does not matter that the declaration or method header lines are identical. Under the rules of Java, they must be identical to declare a method specifying the same functionality — even when the implementation is different. When there is only one way to express an idea or function, then everyone is free to do so and no one can monopolize that expression. And, while the Android method and class names could have been different from the names of their counterparts in Java and still have worked, copyright protection never extends to names or short phrases as a matter of law.'"
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Oracle Clings To Java API Copyrights

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  • Unix (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MrEricSir (398214) on Sunday March 31, 2013 @04:52PM (#43326513) Homepage

    Can you imagine if Bell Labs had sued for control of the Unix APIs? We'd never have GNU, Linux, or many other projects that rely on those.

    It would be a different world.

    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      But just to play Devil's Advocate here I'd say there is a downside in that no corp that doesn't expressly make their living using the GPL "Blessed Three" which is 1.-Selling Services/Support, 2.- Selling Hardware or 3.- The tin cup will touch a GPLed company with a 50 foot pole because this ruling as far as the corps will be concerned makes any and all code of that company public domain and thus worthless if you don't use the blessed three.

      Now some may consider that a good thing, after all Red hat has been

      • WTF does public domain have to do with the GPL?

      • Re:Unix (Score:5, Interesting)

        by jbolden (176878) on Sunday March 31, 2013 @09:17PM (#43327745) Homepage

        We just had a test of this on a major GPL company. Trolltech was sold to Nokia for $153m. Their product was GPL / commercial and profitable, though $150m was grossly overpaying. Nokia LGPLed it which killed the 2 distribution model and thus Trolltech's way to make money on software. When Nokia sold Trolltech to Digia I think it was about $5m total.

        • Re:Unix (Score:4, Interesting)

          by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@gm[ ].com ['ail' in gap]> on Monday April 01, 2013 @12:16AM (#43328431) Journal

          Even though we rarely agree i have to give you credit is that is a GREAT example of what happens when a company that doesn't make their living using the GPL model tries to buy a GPL company, it ends up in a mess.

          And I have taken shit over the years for pointing out that the GPL works best (and I would argue ONLY) with what I call the blessed three...what is wrong with that? Red Hat has made a billion dollar business out of the blessed three so it obviously works, it simply doesn't work with all kinds of software. for example I'd have a hard time seeing how you could make a profitable business out of desktops or video games using the blessed three model, which is probably why we have seen no serious competition from GPL software on those fronts. It simply doesn't fit into the methods of making money with GPLed software.

          Personally i think in the long run this may turn out to be a good thing, companies that get bought for insane amounts of money usually end up getting turned into a mess by the buyer if they can't see a quick enough ROI and as companies like Red Hat have shown you have to be in it for the long haul with the GPL, you can't just flip companies for quick cash it just doesn't work that way. So maybe this will bring some sanity into the market and the only ones that will buy GPL companies will be those already making money using the GPL that will know how to treat the purchases right, not bring a mess of uncertainty like Oracle did with Sun.

          • by jbolden (176878)

            If it is any consolation Oracle has had problems with companies like Peoplesoft as well. They don't do well with merges it ain't just the GPL. If I had to guess I'd assume that primarily Oracle doesn't care about making the money directly. I think they were buying Sun's customer base a huge percentage of whom were Sun/Oracle so that they could switch them gradually to x86/Oracle rather than potentially losing them to x86/Postgres or AIX/DB2. I think the complexity of Sun caught them off guard.

            But no qu

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      They effectively did, by suing BSDI at the time and by their descendants suing Linux. They even claimed certain things in K&R's book on C programming were "AT&T Trade Secrets" and "encumbered". Indeed, that was a major thing with AT&T at the time. If you knew how to program in C, you were "encumbered" by AT&T trade secrets and they (sometimes) would try to claim anything you did or developed as a result really belonged to them.

      That was a common attitude at the time, which is why compilers of

    • Why is the parent mod'd informative and not funny? Actually, the popularity of Linux over BSD is probably helped a lot by the fact that Bell Labs did try to sue over this. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USL_v._BSDi [wikipedia.org]
  • by SinisterRainbow (2572075) on Sunday March 31, 2013 @05:12PM (#43326603) Homepage
    I'm always surprised in these types of articles that the main point is not about the US justice system which allows such crap to happen in the first place and the lack of reprisals against those bringing frivolous lawsuits. When there's little risk and high possible reward, they are going to keep happening. Why not speak their language and punish their pocketbook when they fail. Make it risky to abuse things or be ignorant about things (tho doubtfully the later).
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Because it's very difficult to legally distinguish between a troll and a tiny operation with genuine innovation that has gotten screwed over by a large corporation with lots of lawyers, especially for the non-expert patent officer whose job it is to grant the patent.

      • it's very difficult to legally distinguish between a troll and a tiny operation with genuine innovation

        Does it develop and license significant know-how related to its patent portfolio? If so, it's genuine innovation (cf. ARM).

        • by Kjella (173770)

          Does it develop and license significant know-how related to its patent portfolio? If so, it's genuine innovation (cf. ARM).

          That's a fairly good negative proof, but the absence is hardly a good positive proof. After all, most companies are in the business of using their own innovations not licensing them to third parties. Nor do small companies have a patent portfolio, they may have patented one or a few key innovations that their business model revolves around that would be their unique selling point. And demanding it be in actual use it is a lot harder for small innovators that are looking for funding/production/partners/custo

        • by robbak (775424)

          How about "No, it doesn't, because before they finished development MegaResourcedCorp had been selling their unlicensed product for 6 months, and had been given other patents that prevent anyone (including the original inventor) from producing a competing product."

    • by jbolden (176878)

      Their are penalties for frivolous lawsuits. The problem is there is a huge range between bad lawsuits and frivolous. The bar is high for frivolous.

      As an American I'd like to see more suits have to pass a quick summary judgement on viability. And much stronger restrictions on changing the initial fillings.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 31, 2013 @05:17PM (#43326617)

    Google worst decision was to let Oracle buy and cannibalize Sun. It would have saved us and them from all these nonsense. Also Google's philosophy is so much closer to Sun's: great engineering and giving back to open source. The only thing Google is different than Sun is that they know how to profit from their products.

    Heck, if they didn't want to spend all the money on their own they could lead a group of companies to buy out the IP of Sun.

    It's really a pity that Oracle got a chance to buy Sun. I couldn't have imagined a worst end for such a great company.

    • by MightyMartian (840721) on Sunday March 31, 2013 @05:40PM (#43326719) Journal

      Was it a mistake? Oracle has blown huge sums of cash in acquiring and then attempting to defend and monetize Sun's IP. And what have they got for all of it? Linux is still carving into Solaris and Sparc market share. Java was already leaving Sun's hands long before Oracle bought it.

      Oracle bought very little for a lot of money, and now they're left arguing a spec is the same as an implementation.

      I expect Ellison to join Ballmer in the stupid executive's retirement home. Both have fucked up hugely.

      • by ArsonSmith (13997)

        Sure wish I could fuck up as rich^H^H^H^Hbadly as them.

        • Sure wish I could fuck up as rich^H^H^H^Hbadly as them.

          Royalties from legacy products. Innovation? Oracle & Microsoft are in the same boat, scrambling for a life preserver. People aren't going to keep paying for Oracle and Windows if they're replaced by something that everyone else adopts (like they did Oracle and Windows...)

          • by jbolden (176878)

            What is competitive with Oracle for large relational databases other than DB2? Oracle financials, Peoplesoft, Siebel, JD Edwards...

            I think they are fine for now.

            • by Nerdfest (867930)

              PostgresSQL. If you're using the non-standard PL/SQL stuff in Oracle you're never getting out though.

              • by jbolden (176878)

                Postgres is a comparable to about Oracle 8 in terms of features, there are still very good reasons to use Oracle. Besides my point was that even if the database business does die they have many many more products now.

                • by Nerdfest (867930)

                  From what I've seen, the rest of their products are quite poor. I always joked that they should stick to databases, but even that has significant competition now.

                  • by jbolden (176878)

                    No. There is nothing like Peoplesoft or Siebel. Oracle financials is excellent. I would never describe those as poor.

          • by Rich0 (548339)

            Sure wish I could fuck up as rich^H^H^H^Hbadly as them.

            Royalties from legacy products. Innovation? Oracle & Microsoft are in the same boat, scrambling for a life preserver.

            Yeah, maybe Oracle and MS are scrambling for a life preserver, but Ellison and Ballmer certainly aren't. Sure, their companies woes might mean that there will be an upper limit on how many Gulfstreams they can buy, but I'm sure that 99.9% of Americans wouldn't mind the difficulties of going into the "stupid executive's retirement home."

      • by Kjella (173770)

        Was it a mistake? Oracle has blown huge sums of cash in acquiring and then attempting to defend and monetize Sun's IP. And what have they got for all of it? Linux is still carving into Solaris and Sparc market share. Java was already leaving Sun's hands long before Oracle bought it. Oracle bought very little for a lot of money, and now they're left arguing a spec is the same as an implementation.

        Not to mention with this case they pretty much settled it if Google starts going after desktop java with an enhanced Dalvik for laptop/desktop replacements. What would be nice though is if the Linux devs could get their hands on a GPL-compatible version of Solaris so they could integrate ZFS and some various other goodies, but I suspect you'd have to pay dearly for that.

        • by jbolden (176878)

          ZFS is open source. Turns out it sucks on inexpensive (x86 quality) hardware, in ways that are unfixable even by smart people. Apple lost years proving that.

          But http://zfsonlinux.org/ [zfsonlinux.org]

          But Oracle's BTRFS plays the same role and is even better.

          • The suposed problem you are referring to (ZFS reliability on cheap USB hardware which ignores cache flushes) was in fact well known, and easily fixed. It just took a long time, as no one sane would run ZFS on USB hardware to start with. All Apple proved was that their engineers had a very shallow understanding of ZFS.

            • All Apple proved was that their engineers had a very shallow understanding of ZFS.

              I wouldn't say that - they have an independent company now continuing the project and many people like it.

              Steve Jobs killed the project because Jonathan Schwartz blabbed to the press that Apple was going to embrace it, and nobody punks Steve Jobs, or ELSE!

              • by jbolden (176878)

                Apple doesn't have a filesystem strategy today. They have had this problem since OSX 10.5. Steve Jobs might have an ego about getting punked, but he wasn't crazy.

            • by jbolden (176878)

              Apple supposedly had problems with their internal drives, where it mattered. As for shallow understanding of ZFS they hired several of the world's leading experts on it for their port.

          • But Oracle's BTRFS plays the same role and is even better.

            Wow, you haven't deployed either of them at scale, have you?

            There's still frequent data corruption going in btrfs land and you'll be in for major pain if you try to host a VM storage file on it. They did recently fix the abysmal fsync performance, which is good, and a cursory fsck is available now. The kernel folks are still figuring out how to do cache devices in the dm stack and send/receive are still experimental.

            The benefits to btrfs being what

            • by jbolden (176878)

              Wow, you haven't deployed either of them at scale, have you?

              Nope, parroting other's opinions.

              Since Oracle is still selling ZFS, it would be hard to see why they would put significant resources into creating a free alternative at this point.

              AFAIK BTRFS is better for Oracle and more feature rich. Ultimately it is not to Oracle's advantage that Z-OS, I-OS (the IBM one) and AIX are the OSes for very large storage. That's how they could lose to DB2 / Netezza.

      • Oracle literally would collapse tomorrow if Java were to go away overnight. Oracle absolutely had to acquire Sun for the Java IP, no matter the cost. Had it gotten into the hands of IBM and had IBM pulled the shit Oracle just tried to do to HP + Itanium, Oracle would be fucked. The *ONLY* reason that Oracle is so screwed right now is because of Larry Ellison and his personal relationships. The original plan was for HP to acquire all of the hardware business, and Oracle to take the software. Then Mark H
  • And, while the Android method and class names could have been different from the names of their counterparts in Java and still have worked, copyright protection never extends to names or short phrases as a matter of law.

    That's it. Who disagrees?

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday March 31, 2013 @05:45PM (#43326739)

    Oracle kicks off its legal arguments with the tale of a mythical writer, Ann Droid who copies the titles and some sentences from a Harry Potter book and publishes her book. Oracle then argues that we would not accept that.
    BUT, API's should rather be compared with writing an anatomy book. We all would have chapters like 'Introduction, digestive tract, neural system etc.'. So if the argument of Oracle hold, no_one_can write another anatomy book (or most technical books).

    • The Java API is a dictionary of the words, punctuation marks, and grammar of the Java language. The only thing possibly covered by copyright is the layout and descriptions. Google didn't copy either.
      • A glimpse into the world as seen by Larry Ellison

        If I were Daniel Webster, I'd be kicking myself for not trying to copyright English....

    • by sjames (1099)

      The BBC [wikia.com] should sue Oracle.

  • I hope this isnt an april fools joke (a judge making an intelligent decision) but assuming its not, this is a pretty significant win for developers in general.
    • No this is really old news. It happened last year. Basically nothing new has occurred. Oracle has just finished some of their paperwork on their appeal.
  • Does this mean that mono is protected from Microsoft's .net in the same way? Not trolling, just seriously asking.

    • by gbjbaanb (229885)

      doubt it, Microsoft never asserted copyright claims to the .NET API words, they do however claim to have a shed-load of patents that they won't use against mono should be become successful, honest.

      Patent law being a lot more screwed than copyright law is, I wouldn't count on it.

  • Why didn't Oracle sue over the Trademark instead? It worked for Sun against Microsoft.

    • Why didn't Oracle sue over the Trademark instead? It worked for Sun against Microsoft.

      Google was careful to not call it Java.

  • by kawabago (551139) on Monday April 01, 2013 @12:38AM (#43328513)
    Because it isn't in it!

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