45 votes

SCOTUS sides with Google over Oracle

@SCOTUSblog:
BREAKING: In major copyright battle between tech giants, SCOTUS sides w/ Google over Oracle, finding that Google didnt commit copyright infringement when it reused lines of code in its Android operating system. The code came from Oracle's JAVA SE platform. https://t.co/vAK7jMPa8e

9 comments

  1. Jedi
    Link
    6–2, I can’t believe it.

    6–2, I can’t believe it.

    19 votes
  2. [5]
    MetArtScroll
    (edited )
    Link
    This is globally important. It is logical that APIs are non-copyrightable, and now SCOTUS clearly confirms it. Edit: as a response states, even though the lower court decision on APIs'...

    This is globally important. It is logical that APIs are non-copyrightable, and now SCOTUS clearly confirms it.

    Edit: as a response states, even though the lower court decision on APIs' copyrightability stands, the re-implementation of API's qualifies as fair use, which is what actually matters. Though, unfortunately, there can be attempts at narrowing, but the big decision has been made. NB: in the EU/Anglosphere/other 1st world countries outside the United States, the non-copyrightability of APIs is usually considered absolutely obvious.

    15 votes
    1. [4]
      whbboyd
      Link Parent
      Careful: the court explicitly did not rule on whether APIs are copyrightable (meaning, as far as I understand, the lower court's decision that APIs are copyrightable, stands). Instead, they ruled...

      Careful: the court explicitly did not rule on whether APIs are copyrightable (meaning, as far as I understand, the lower court's decision that APIs are copyrightable, stands). Instead, they ruled that reimplementation of an API is covered by fair use. (And the way the ruling is worded suggests that a sufficiently-malfeasant court could twist the precedent to be narrower even than that.)

      14 votes
      1. [3]
        pseudolobster
        Link Parent
        Could you explain this a bit more? I'm not sure I understand. The API itself is nothing but a list of function names and expected behaviour from those functions, no? The implementation of an API...

        Could you explain this a bit more? I'm not sure I understand. The API itself is nothing but a list of function names and expected behaviour from those functions, no? The implementation of an API is kinda a no-brainer as far as being copyrightable, but I thought it was the literal names of the functions that was in doubt.

        As far as I understand it, google copied 14,000 lines of code declaring the names of those functions, and wrote the other 2mil+ lines of code themselves, which implement those functions. Taking 14,000 lines of code verbatim should be a no-brainer copyright infringement, but in this case it's considered fair use since it's just the names of functions, not how they work.

        I thought the real danger here was Oracle being able to say they own the names of variables and functions, and implementing your own String.toUpper() is copyright infringement. Even if your code is written from scratch without looking at Oracle's, the declaration itself would be infringing.

        3 votes
        1. [2]
          stu2b50
          Link Parent
          The API itself, in its entirety, from implementation to just the function names, is still copyrightable. Google's reimplementation in this case was found to be "fair use". But that does not mean...

          The API itself, in its entirety, from implementation to just the function names, is still copyrightable. Google's reimplementation in this case was found to be "fair use". But that does not mean it's free game - if someone else were to do the same thing, you would have to examine the pillars of free use as the court did here to see if it would count as free use.

          For instance, one of the reasons the Court found this fell under fair use was that Google's reimplementation increased the value of Java overall. Another was that Google's product did not directly compete with Oracle's.

          So, we're still far from "APIs are not copyrightable".

          7 votes
          1. gpl
            Link Parent
            Just to add some support here, the court specifically said that in this case they would not rule on whether or not API's are copyrightable, and for the sake of argument in this case assumed that...

            Just to add some support here, the court specifically said that in this case they would not rule on whether or not API's are copyrightable, and for the sake of argument in this case assumed that the lines were copyrightable.

            This case implicates two of the limits in the current Copyright Act.First, the Act provides that copyright protection cannot extend to “anyidea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, princi-ple, or discovery . . . .” 17 U. S. C. §102(b). Second, the Act providesthat a copyright holder may not prevent another person from makinga “fair use” of a copyrighted work. §107. Google’s petition asks theCourt to apply both provisions to the copying at issue here. To decide no more than is necessary to resolve this case, the Court assumes for argument’s sake that the copied lines can be copyrighted, and focuses on whether Google’s use of those lines was a “fair use.” Pp. 11–15.

            This is found near the beginning of the PDF @stu2b50 linked to.

            3 votes
  3. [2]
    stu2b50
    Link
    I would recommend reading the official opinion of the court here. It's not in weird legalese or anything, it's accessible and layman readable. Interesting if for nothing else to read about how the...

    I would recommend reading the official opinion of the court here. It's not in weird legalese or anything, it's accessible and layman readable. Interesting if for nothing else to read about how the justices thought about a topic fairly in the weeds of technology.

    12 votes
    1. MonkeyPants
      Link Parent
      Copying APIs were found to be fair use because:

      Copying APIs were found to be fair use because:

      As part of an interface, the copied lines are inherently bound together with uncopyrightable ideas... the value of the copied lines is... derived from the investment of users (here computer programmers) who have learned the API’s system

      Google copied only what was needed to allow programmers to work in a different computing environment without discarding a portion of a familiar programming language.

      Google copied these lines not because of their creativity or beauty but because they would allow programmers to bring their skills to a new smartphone computing environment.

      Google’s new smartphone platform is not a market substitute for Java SE.

      14 votes
  4. Toric
    Link
    thank fuck.

    thank fuck.