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EU Programming

EU Court Rules APIs, Programming Languages Not Copyrightable 215

itwbennett writes "The European Court of Justice ruled on Wednesday that the functionality of a computer program and the programming language it is written in cannot be protected by copyright. In its ruling on a case brought by SAS Institute against World Programming Limited (WPL), the court said that 'the purchaser of a license for a program is entitled, as a rule, to observe, study or test its functioning so as to determine the ideas and principles which underlie that program.'"
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EU Court Rules APIs, Programming Languages Not Copyrightable

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  • Read the decision (Score:5, Informative)

    by msobkow ( 48369 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @08:27PM (#39874507) Homepage Journal

    Read what the decision actually says. The source code and object code which implement a system are covered by copyright, but the interfaces and algorithms implemented by that source code are not.

    It's a fine distinction, but it essentially says that if you can reverse engineer the requirements of an API by observing it's behaviour, you are free to re-implement that functionality. i.e. You have to use so-called "clean-room" techniques, where the team that did the functional analysis of the APIs to write the specs have absolutely nothing else to do with the team that writes the implementation.

  • This is no news ... (Score:5, Informative)

    by angel'o'sphere ( 80593 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @08:42PM (#39874629) Journal

    European court rules ....
    Sorry, this is law
    A court is not "ruling" what is "law".
    In europe we have laws that define what is "the case" what is "right" or what is "wrong" ...
    I don't know the background, but going to court and asking for a rule if APIs are copyrightable is so plain stupid it is beyond believe. The law explicitly states: APIs or SQL data definition statements are ... surprise surprise: not copyrightable

    Seems half of the world does not understand how a court works. There is a law. There is a subject. And the judge decides if the subject is afflicted by the law.

    Pretty simple.

  • by White Flame ( 1074973 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @10:22PM (#39875235)

    but the DMCA in the US forbids "reverse engineering"

    No, it does not. The DMCA prohibits "Circumvention of Technological Protection Measures", specifically circumvention of measures to access copyrighted materials, and circumvention of measures to copy copyrighted materials. It prohibits the act of circumvention as well as distribution of circumvention tools.

    Reverse engineering is specifically *protected* in the DMCA, exempted from its prohibition, allowing you to circumvent access restrictions, if you need to achieve interoperability and the software is "lawfully obtained".

  • For one, "java" is a slang term for coffee. This was true before the language. That's why the java logo is a steaming cup of coffee. Thus, because it's a common term, it may not be eligible to be trademarked.

    Quite the opposite. The less the term/phrase describes the product, the stronger the trademark. Thus, Apple is an excellent name for a computer company, but would probably be rejected if a fruit company tried to use it as a trademark. Microsoft should have been considered a weak trademark, but they got lucky and have the money to fight any attempts to revoke it.

    Since Java and coffee really don't have anything to do with computing (other than it being the primary component of geek blood), it's a pretty strong trademark.

    IANAL, but got that information from an article written by a trademark lawyer years ago.

  • by Rennt ( 582550 ) on Wednesday May 02, 2012 @11:20PM (#39875513)
    Minor niggle - Google did not call their implementation Java. They have been quite consistent in their message that it is NOT Java. This is because Java is protected by trademark, and Sun required to you implement the full Java specification before allowing you to call your implementation Java.
  • by ppanon ( 16583 ) on Thursday May 03, 2012 @12:10AM (#39875709) Homepage Journal

    From your lips to the Oracle Jury's ears....

    To the Google-Oracle judge's ears. The jury have been specifically instructed to assume that APIs are copyrightable.

    That said, Jonathan Schwartz' testimony on day 9 was seriously damaging to Oracle's case. He established a sound basis for the argument that Java APIs had been officially released for use without a licence, and that Sun had claimed a licence was only necessary to obtain the JCK to certify Java compatibility. STo the best of my knowledge, Sun didn't go bankrupt but were instead bought by Oracle, so those statements should still be in force. I'm thinking there might be opportunity for some serious class action lawsuits for breach of contract from Java developers against Oracle using that testimony if Oracle pursue the matter of copyrighting and demanding licences for the APIs. Not to mention massive flight of developers from use of the language and collapse of the Java business as developers decide not to pray that Oracle doesn't alter the deal further.

    So there's reasonable hope that we might get a double win: a non-infringement ruling from the jury and a legal ruling against API copyrightability from the judge.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday May 03, 2012 @12:38AM (#39875799)

    Software licenses or EULA cannot take away rights granted by law. This is in the EU.
    Now in the US its a whole other can of worms.

  • by dkf ( 304284 ) <> on Thursday May 03, 2012 @05:11AM (#39876745) Homepage

    for the US, and Canada, the EU, ...

    Strictly, in the EU it depends where you are. In most member states, the legal system is such that decisions are supposed to be just taken on the laws as written and the facts of the case, though they may find legal arguments made elsewhere persuasive (after all, a good piece of jurisprudence is exactly that everywhere). Some member states (the UK and Ireland) have the same common law system as you see in the US, so decisions of higher courts are totally binding. The net effect is pretty similar wherever you are though; interfaces and algorithms are not copyrightable anywhere in the EU (not unless some bunch of scumbag politicians creates an explicit statute to change that, but we'll worry about that problem if it happens).

It is not for me to attempt to fathom the inscrutable workings of Providence. -- The Earl of Birkenhead