The Jury is back with its crucial verdict on whether Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) infringed Oracle's (NASDAQ:ORCL) copyright, leaving the software-development world in a proper pickle. But it's unclear whether it's a usable decision. In IT Blogwatch, bloggers break out the Magic 8-Ball.
By Richi Jennings: Your humble blogwatcher curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment. Not to mention: School Portrait...
James Niccolai can handle the truth:
The jury's verdict...is a partial victory for Oracle...but Oracle will have to wait...to see whether Google will escape liability. ... Google's argument [is] that the same jury must decide both the copyright...and fair use issues.
As well as the outstanding issue of fair use, Judge William Alsup...must decide whether Oracle's Java APIs...can be copyrighted at all. ... Historically, APIs have not been considered copyrightable. But Oracle argues that...the 166 API packages in Java are sufficiently complex.
Carly Page explains:
Despite reaching a unanimous decision on three issues, the jury reached a deadlock on part of the first. ... The jury couldn't decide whether Google's use of Java APIs amounts to Fair Use.
Following the verdict, Google argued that the partial verdict holds no value and requested a mistrial. ... "We appreciate the jury's efforts, and know that fair use and infringement are two sides of the same coin. ... We expect to prevail."
Although victorious in the jury's verdict...Oracle seems unlikely to win substantial damages.
Your humble blogwatcher optimistically wonders if this is actually going Google's way:
What a critical decision for the future of software. ... Many developers are alarmed by the possibility that...APIs can be subject to copyright. ... It's bad enough that there are rafts of bogus software patents just waiting to trip up unwary developers.
For example, the original IBM PC was cloned by reverse-engineering the BIOS. ... If Compaq et al [couldn't] do that, we'd never have had such a vibrant PC industry.
However...the judge could simply rule that APIs aren't copyrightable...[which may] be Google's preferred outcome...for [the] verdict to be nullified by the ruling that an API isn't subject to copyright.
But Robert McMillan ponders a cloudy future:
The conventional wisdom [is] that it’s fine to reproduce...someone else’s APIs, so long as you don’t actually copy their software.
An open source effort called OpenStack...mimics Amazon’s APIs, and the case could give Amazon legal grounds to seek licensing deals. ... But other projects reproduce Amazon’s APIs, including...CloudStack...Jclouds and Fog.
One thing that makes the issue particularly troubling...is the extremely long shelf life of copyrights...95 years.
Meanwhile, Alex Blewitt notes a similar case in Europe:
Since this court case started, the European Union has ruled that The functionality of a computer program and the programming language cannot be protected by copyright. ... SAS Institute claimed that they had copyright on the language, preventing World Programming Limited from re-implementing [it].
Richi Jennings is an independent analyst/consultant, specializing in blogging, email, and security. He's the creator and main author of Computerworld's IT Blogwatch, for which he has won ASBPE and Neal awards. He also writes The Long View for IDG Enterprise. A cross-functional IT geek since 1985, you can read Richi's full profile and disclosure of his industry affiliations.