Appeals court sides with Oracle in fight with Google over Java

Oracle has won a round in its ongoing battle with Google over copyright protection of Java. The APIs used by Java were at issue in the case, with Oracle alleging the Google had used them without providing proper compensation. The case was first brought in 2010 by Oracle, and a 2012 San Francisco jury trial found that Google had not infringed and the judge on the case stating that APIs can't be copyrighted to begin with. But Oracle being Oracle (more importantly, CEO Larry Ellison being Larry Ellison), that wasn't the end of it. So that brings us to today's appellate court ruling.

A panel of three judges ruled that Oracle is in fact entitled to copyright protection of their Java APIs. In doing so they overruled U.S. District Court Judge William Alsup's judgement that the APIs, being free to use by all, were not subject to protected by copyright and thus okay for Google to duplicate.

The appeals court is pushing the issue back down to Alsup, according to Reuters:

The unanimous Federal Circuit panel ordered further proceedings before Alsup to decide whether Google's actions were protected under fair use.

"We are mindful that the application of copyright law in the computer context is often a difficult task," Federal Circuit Judge Kathleen O'Malley wrote. "On this record, however, we find that the district court failed to distinguish between the threshold question of what is copyrightable — which presents a low bar — and the scope of conduct that constitutes infringing activity."

No kidding it's "often a difficult task." Copyright and patent law in the United States is in need of an overhaul to fix a system that leads to years of litigation over whether or not one can duplicate the function of an API. But how exactly does that law need to change?

Source: Reuters


Reader comments

Appeals court sides with Oracle in fight with Google over Java


it really doesnt matter. by the time this is over, google will have other methods in place. I dont recall exactly what this suit was over but i thought it had something to do with the Dalvik and how its used... google has already beta released ART and its shouldnt be too long before tis the standard. i could be wrong, but i thought thats what this one had to do with

ART won't make developers move to a different programming language.
ART is used as an alternative way to run the apps of Android, that most are developed in Java.
What they are talking about here is API, which is a very general way to describe operations. It's more like the title of the operation, instead of the detailed steps that take to make it happen. As an example, take the operation "make a coffee ". The API would be that making a coffee requires water, sugar and coffee-powder , and after the operation is done, you get a cup of coffee. This is as short as it can get - just a few sentences describing it.
However, the steps to make the coffee might be different between people, and that's what makes the entire difference between codes.

That's why it's weird that Google is being charged over it, since everybody can make APIs quite easily.

It was appeals court. Not the Supreme Court. It reads like the first judge wasn't thorough enough on their explanation in deciding the case. Just another delay really.

Yes, I realize this was appeals court. The only appeal they have left is the Supreme Court. Had this rulling been from the Supreme Court, the answer would have been "0" ;)

I'm still hoping for a more rational decision from the Supreme Court. I don't believe this appeals court had a very good concept of what they were even rulling on.

About damn time, I always thought google is all about making a buck on the backs of others. Use open source as a way to further their own agenda while keeping their own stuff under locking key. They talk bad about close systems, not because their care, but because they can't see behind them and therefore are not searchable by them and won't be able to monetize it with their ads. Such a devious company.

Making a buck on the back of others? You do realise Oracle made a significant amount of cash out of SQL. Do you realise that is basically APIs from IBM? If APIs can be protected then Oracle should kiss SQL goodbye.

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Toukale is Android Central's residential Apple troll, just read his history and ignore responding to any of his dribble in the future.. =)
I just don't understand what goes through his mind, spending so much time at an Android site to troll about "the evil of Google and goodness of Apple". Are Apple really this desperate these days?

Funny thing is that Apple's success is solely built on the back of open source software. FreeBSD userland, CUPS (printing), Mach kernel (basis for Darwin), OpenSSL, Samba, and etc. There's just too many to list so his arguments are just stupid and yes, trollish.

Good point, Google has made very little money from operating within closed software like those offered by Apple and Microsoft... cough cough

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Um companies are in business to make money, whether its ads or whatever. The laws in the U.S. need a complete overhaul because this waste of money in litigation only hurts consumers.

If you know anything about programming, you would know that this is a terrible ruling. This has nothing to do with google or oracle, but what this says about API's at large. If this gets upheld, it could literally make it impossible for someone to do any sort of independent due to licensing fees that would now be involved because of now "copyrightable" API's.

I know that, it will effect a lot of people and we can say thanks to google. I do think this is a money grab from Oracle, but it's a money grab I think they deserve in this case. Java allowed google to cut short a lot of development time they practically hijacked java to accomplished their goals faster, so it's time for them to pay up.

toukale, you do realize that Java API's were completely free for open source use under GPL license when Google built Android, right? That's one of the reasons that the Android OS is open source. Then, in 2009 Oracle bought Sun Microsystems (and, by extension, Java) and started demanding licensing fees for software that already existed. This has nothing to do with Google. There are *thousands* of implementations of the Java API's out there (including Android) that are (or were) perfectly legit until Oracle decided to be greedy.

Educate yourself, please.

I agree it would hurt anyone not on a company payroll it's simply a nother tactic to basically say we own everything pay me or I'll destroy you work for me make me $$$ or don't post anything its a nail in the coffin for any type of open source work if they copy write it first they own it and big day wants his money while he pimps you out don't give him the money you get beat

"Lock and key," not "locking key."

And I'm not sure how Google is differentiated in your comment from virtually any other business, especially those in the software world. Sounds as though you just have a beef with Google and will use whatever ammo you can find.

Don't think you know how open source software works or how software programming works. If you're against companies making money off open source software, then you're pretty much against every single major electronics firm. These technology firms all use open source software in some capacity to generate revenues and ultimately profit. Even Microsoft uses open source technologies for their products too. Hell, they open source some of their own code too (not often but they do). So your argument holds no water.

Misconceptions all around. If header files are copywrited works, then you have to look at every header file in every application in order to make sure you don't use the same variable names in yours. Heaven forbid that your implementation of printf is defined as printf so that people can expect to know how to use it ...

This is the crux of the Java case. Yes, the dalvik engine in Android uses the same APIs as JAVA does on purpose. The is the whole point of APIs. That all can and should use the same set!

What a nightmare ...

Well you can blame google, they have now ruined it for a lot of people. This has implication well beyond google.

How, patent litigation (on Oracle's part) would be to blame, if anything. The whole thing is beyond dumb, it's like allowing one sign company to patent the use of the word EXIT in red lighting...

All Oracle wanted was to get a piece of the action and google practically refused, they were offering them peanuts. Whether you agree with Oracle or not what google did was devious, they hijacked java which allowed them to cut short their development times by months if not years to move fast while at the same time try to cut the guys who owns the thing out. Did they really think Oracle was not going to try to get paid somehow?

As I stated previously, Google didn't "hijack" Java. It was free for use when Google created Android, and was perfectly legal by Sun Microsystem's licensing rules. Then Oracle bought Sun and decided to be greedy. Changing the API's at this point, solely for the purpose of not using the same method call names, would literally break *every* Android application. The judges in this case don't even understand what they ruling against, because they've basically just made it illegal for me to write a class called "Math" that has a method call "Min" if Microsoft decides to "copyright" those names.

Copyrighting software is a good thing, but not copying writing the names of methods. That's just silly.

And, if you don't understand what any of that means, then you're not a software developer and maybe you should leave the commentary to people who have some clue what they're talking about.

It takes very little programming experience to see why this is beyond silly. Aren't you're taught classes and whatnot like two C++ courses in? Upholding this is like a teacher flunking everyone just because they titled the chapters of their essays the same, regardless of their content.

I think if you took a C++ class and they didn't start teaching anything about class and objects until two courses in (maybe you meant class sessions) I would be looking for a different school ;)

An API is basically a list of commands that you can call to accomplish work. And you're right, saying that the names of the commands in that list is beyond ridiculous. I wonder how many others Oracle has sued, but we just don't know about because they're not as high profile as Google.

You just sound like you just have some sort of personal vendetta against Google here. It's not like Oracle doesn't use API in their software. Technically the open source community can countersue Oracle for the use of open source libraries for their software too, and if APIs can be "infringed" on, then technically Oracle wouldn't be any different than Google using this argument. Java's API has been open sourced prior to the collapse and merger of Sun Microsystems.

No, Oracle is to blame. They bought up open source works created by Sun and have been trying to stuff the proverbial cat back into the bag ever since. They are destroying MySQL, they tried to kill OpenOffice, and they are destroying Java. Practically every open source project ever created by Sun now has now been forked by the open source community,abandoning the trunk and original names. Because Oracle is even fighting to tradmark the names to add legal locks.

Here's a little history refresher:

You have got to be the most ignorant inbred POS i have ever read. Kill yourself and do the world a favor. seriously. You dont contribute anything to the world, just go.

Only a sociopath would like it when people call them a "ignorant inbred POS".

By the way, I disagree with him. There's no way to determine if you are inbred. The rest does apply though.

Don't get upset and resort to name calling. They just gives him what he wants.

"Never argue with an idiot. He'll drag you down to his level and win from experience."

WHy Chase Ambulances when you can chase multi billion dollar companies that guarentee years long employment and millions of dollars. Lawyers win again.

Ok so the APIs are copyrighted.. they're also opensource, to me that means I can quote you for free as long as I acknowledge where the quote comes from.

Another analogy might be like the author of a book called "How to wash a car" suing everyone who ever writes how to wash a car and uses that title.

It means if I want to write a method that gets the current time, I have to worry about naming it something other than GetCurrentTime so that I don't get sued.

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