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Oracle vs Google: Copyright Claims Must Remain 166

swandives writes "More in the Oracle/Google patent infringement saga. Oracle says no court has ever found that APIs for software like Java are ineligible for copyright protection. The claims were made in its objection to Google's request that the court make a summary judgment on Oracle's copyright allegations. In early August, Google asked the judge to rule that Google doesn't infringe Oracle copyright in its implementation of Android. In an objection to that request, Oracle asked the judge to let the charge go to trial. Earlier, Judge Alsup denied Google's attempt to get a potentially damaging e-mail redacted. Looks like this one could take a while."
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Oracle vs Google: Copyright Claims Must Remain

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  • by jc42 ( 318812 ) on Tuesday August 23, 2011 @08:34PM (#37186032) Homepage Journal

    If a court rules that a company can own an API, then everybody's software becomes infringing!

    This isn't a new concern. Back in the 1980s and 1990s, I worked (as a "consultant") on a number of projects at Digital. One of the discussions that came up occasionally was why DEC's unix systems were all based on BSD, and not Sys/V. It was well-known that DEC had Sys/V running on their hardware internally, but for some reason they didn't want to sell it.

    The explanation that came up every time was that the Digital lawyers had nixed the use of Sys/V and other AT&T code for the same reason that we're discussing now: The run-time libraries all contained AT&T copyright notices in every routine, so if you linked to those libraries, your binaries would contain AT&T copyright notices. This included libc, so pretty much all binaries produced on Sys/V contained lots of AT&T copyright notices. There was a very good chance that AT&T would have a legal claim on any software that contained those copyright notices.

    The lawyers apparently did point out that the status of these copyright claims in binaries was a legal "gray area" that had never been properly tested in the courts. Their professional legal advice was to let someone else be the sucker^H^H^H^H^H^Hguinea pig who paid the legal fees to fight AT&T on the issue. Until that was decided, using AT&T binary libraries was legally too risky, and since the BSD libraries were not such a legal threat, DEC should stick with BSD, which did the job just fine.

    Disclaimer: I never personally talked to any of these purported DEC lawyers to verify this story. But it was widely believed by all the DEC insiders that I talked to. I'd imagine that the same sort of discussions must be going on inside a lot of current companies with respect to java. I'd also guess that a lot of companies lawyers are advising that their clients minimize the use of java until the courts sort out the legal issues, just to be on the safe side. Why risk your company's profits on a language that may be legally incumbered in ways that are unknowable today, when there are similar languages (python, perl, etc.) that the geeks say are just as good and are legally safe to use..

    (Yeah, I know I'm risking a language flame war by that last comment. Hopefully the mods here will mark them OT. ;-)

Mathemeticians stand on each other's shoulders while computer scientists stand on each other's toes. -- Richard Hamming