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OPLIN 4cast #492: Oracle v. Google

Posted in 4cast

elephants fightingThis blog tends to shy away from the “big” tech stories that have been covered in numerous other blogs and news feeds. In the case of the Oracle v. Google trial, however, there are so many things going on that touch on important topics to libraries, we cannot let it pass. Copyright law, the fair use doctrine, and open source software are all going to be at least a little different once this case finally runs to its end. Last Thursday’s jury verdict in favor of Google gets us closer to the end, but we are not there yet. (For a good summary of this huge and complex legal battle, see the Electronic Freedom Foundation’s [EFF] brief document.)

  • Google prevails as jury rebuffs Oracle in code copyright case (New York Times | Nick Wingfield and Quentin Hardy)  “The particular areas of copyright protection in Java involved the so-called declaring code in Application Programming Interfaces, or A.P.I.s., which have become the common way that networked programs on the Internet share data. Declaring code establishes standards and meanings by which future lines of software, the actual effects the software seeks to create, will operate. This distinction compelled the 10 jurors — eight women and two men — to hear extensive testimony by engineers and economists about the nature of code, and the copyrightable implications of this type of creativity.”
  • EFF applauds jury verdict in favor of fair use in Oracle v. Google (EFF Deeplinks blog | Parker Higgins)  “The Google verdict is an an important validation of the idea that developing interoperable software need not require permission or a license. As Google attorney Robert Van Nest said in his closing arguments, the law expressly endorses fair use—it’s a right, not an ‘excuse,’ as Oracle attorneys had claimed. Still, the fair use victory is bittersweet. Judge William Alsup’s previous opinion that the API labels in question are not copyrightable was the correct one, based on a reasonable reading of the copyright law in question. The Federal Circuit decision to reverse that opinion was not just wrong but dangerous.”
  • Big win for fair use: Jury says Google’s use of Java API’s was fair use… on to the appeal (Techdirt | Mike Masnick)  “They couldn’t say no one thought APIs were covered by copyright, so they had to talk about ‘open’ and ‘free’ in ways that were slightly misleading. If anything, this may be the most important fair use case to turn on factor 2, ‘the nature of the copyrighted work.’ That’s a factor that rarely is a very big deal, but without being able to (re)challenge the copyrightability, the focus was mostly on the nature of APIs and how the tech industry viewed them as free to be reused.”
  • Google beats Oracle—Android makes “fair use” of Java APIs (Ars Technica | Joe Mullin)  “Google’s win somewhat softens the blow to software developers who previously thought programming language APIs were free to use. It’s still the case that APIs can be protected by copyright under the law of at least one appeals court. However, the first high-profile attempt to control APIs with copyright law has now been stymied by a ‘fair use’ defense.”

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