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Google breached Oracle copyright but may not be liable

by Alistair Lowe on 8 May 2012, 09:56

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

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What a kerfuffle indeed. After weeks of trial and nearly a week of deliberation, the outcome of phase one of the Google-Oracle trial was that the jury agreed Google had violated Oracle copyright by duplicating word for word nine lines of code and mimicking Java's APIs, however a consensus could not be reached as to whether the use of the Java API constituted ''fair use', rendering the announcement of copyright infringement practically mute.

What's more, whilst the jury had been asked to deliberate under the assumption that APIs were indeed copyrightable, Judge William Alsup has yet to rule on this matter, leaving software engineers and programming houses all over the world waiting to see if the very core of their business may still change or not. There's a little confusion too, as to whether the jury felt that the use of the Java API constituted fair use because of Android's specific application in the market or due to the nature of APIs themselves.

Either way, for now at least, without a solid verdict, there's technically no evidence that Google has infringed copyright and so the firm's lawyers are calling for a mistrial, at the very least, Oracle may now only seek statutory damages of up to £100,000 in regards to copyright infringement, which had, we're informed, formed the the bulk of Oracle's £630 million damages claim.

The trial will now move onto phase two, where the matter of alleged patent infringement will be debated. It won't be until phase three that damages are to be discussed.



HEXUS Forums :: 20 Comments

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100 000?! I would be suprised if that even covered the legal bills and court charges.
So this is good news for Google? £100,000 is a long way off £630 million, probably spent a couple of million on legal fees already….
How the hell can you copyright an API? That's like patenting book bindings or the steering wheel in a car.
aidanjt
How the hell can you copyright an API? That's like patenting book bindings or the steering wheel in a car.

If you develop a special method of binding books or a certain design of steering wheel, both would be patentable, and rightly so.

Just because its an API doesnt mean it cant be copyright, just in the same way that the words in a book are copyright to the author, even though all the words are in other books and dictionaries.

Copyright doesnt prevent other people seeing, reading or calling your API from code, just prevents them making an identically named version of it, I dont know if the functionality needs to be the same though.
BobF64
If you develop a special method of binding books or a certain design of steering wheel, both would be patentable, and rightly so.

Just because its an API doesnt mean it cant be copyright, just in the same way that the words in a book are copyright to the author, even though all the words are in other books and dictionaries.

Copyright doesnt prevent other people seeing, reading or calling your API from code, just prevents them making an identically named version of it, I dont know if the functionality needs to be the same though.

An API is a prototype interface, not code itself. There's nothing at all innovative about a programme interface, it's all standard language grammar for calling routines which actually contain code which implements the programme.