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Google and Oracle take the fight over Java in Android to court

by Alistair Lowe on 16 April 2012, 10:41

Tags: Google (NASDAQ:GOOG), Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL)

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It has finally begun, the legal battle over the free use of the programming language, Java, has at last been taken to court by owner, Oracle, with the firm claiming £630 million in compensation from Google, for using the language's APIs to form a core part of its Android operating system.

Oracle and Sun Microsystems

Oracle obtained the rights to Java when it purchased creator, Sun Microsystems, back in 2009, where it also took the opportunity to discontinue the firm's OpenSolaris OS and StarOffice software suite, as well as capitalise on the free and open-source MySQL database software, by offering commercial features and support incentives. The buyout also upset the OpenOffice project, ultimately resulting in Oracle donating the software to the Apache foundation as project members left the team to create LibreOffice, in protest to Oracle's management approach.

In the case against Google, Oracle claims that by integrating the Java API into its Android operating system and distributing the OS for free, Google has ruined chances of the firm commercially licensing Java for the mobile platform. On the other-hand, Google has taken the stance that a programming language itself can not be licensed and that without the Java API, Java is inherently, "deaf, dumb and blind", with the presence of such APIs expected by any Java programmer.

At this stage, the case now represents more than just Oracle vs Google and could have serious implications in the way programming languages themselves are treated legally, should Oracle prove the victor. A win in favour of the commercialisation of programming languages and their APIs could make life for programmers very difficult and confusing indeed, with each API used, needing checking for licensing terms, potentially discounting certain APIs from use in open-source and adding complexity to multi-platform compatibility.

Google Play

As a more immediate threat, the fate of Google's Android OS and the apps produced for, it hang in the balance, with Java forming a core component of the entire operating system.

The case is expected to last eight weeks, where we'll be sure to report on the outcome.

HEXUS Forums :: 10 Comments

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This is just ridiculous. That's like saying, well yeah, you can use English for free, but you have to pay for the words. :rolleyes:
I don't understand what Oracle are looking for with this except a big cheque - its not like Java was even the reason they bought sun in the first place (MySQL being the real reason). Its just money driving this as usual with all these stupid patient cases!
I think a big fat cheque is more than enough of a reason to motivate Oracle to litigate. Microsoft is getting a free cut of the Android pie, they might as well.
hey we developed this thing and allowed people to use it for free… but we weren't expecting anything to be this successful so we want some money for it.
I think a big fat cheque is more than enough of a reason to motivate Oracle to litigate. Microsoft is getting a free cut of the Android pie, they might as well.
Actually, I'm of the opinion that Oracle probably should get a small license fee for the use of Java - not the billions that they're suggesting, (yes I know it says Ā£630m in the article - but I'm sure I saw a billions figure in the initial foray by Oracle). In return, Google get to use the Java branding.

I'm probably being naive, but surely being able to claim that Android is “based on Java” would be good PR for Oracle, in which case being heavy handed with Google seems silly. That said, I'd take a lot of convincing to be persuaded that Oracle aren't just totally evil. It's been well know that Dalvik is a Java VM for a long time, so it looks to me like Oracle's deliberately waited for it to be successful before pouncing - nothing to do with copyright/license infringement and everything to do with extortion!

Small point though - I thought OpenSolaris was a community project - all be it one that Sun encouraged. From where I sit, Oracle's takeover of Sun just resulted in a lot of folks giving up on Solaris and moving to Linux. And as far as I'm concerned OpenOffice is a non-event compared to LibreOffice.