Tuesday, June 9, 2015

The DOJ's Copyright Fetish Might Screw Up the Internet's Future; Forbes, 6/9/15

Marvin Ammori, Forbes; The DOJ's Copyright Fetish Might Screw Up the Internet's Future:
"The DOJ asked the Supreme Court not to review a lower court decision that said API interfaces are copyrightable. But that decision threatens new and existing websites and devices that we all rely on. Hopefully, the Supreme Court will ignore the DOJ’s recommendation and eventually reverses the lower court.
“But what’s an API?” you ask. API stands for “application programming interface” and is essentially a way for software developers to interact with information on other sites or on their own sites. When you go to a restaurant’s website and see an embedded map of the location, the restaurant’s developers didn’t create the map from scratch. They merely used an API—perhaps the Google Maps or Mapbox API—to get a map for the location. An API lets one company build on another’s innovation; we don’t all have to create a global mapping company merely to give directions to our restaurants. An API obviously has two parts: the interface and the code behind it. The interface is essentially a shortcut available to others (imagine “1899 M St. NW location” or some other shortcut that probably every map developer already knows) and the code behind it is all the complicated computer lines that create the visual map.
The case at issue involves whether the interfaces—just the shortcuts, not the code behind it—are copyrightable. It arises out of a lawsuit between Oracle and Google concerning the Java programming language. Computer programmers use a variety of “languages” to create websites and apps—they’re called Ruby on Rails, Python, Erlang, C+, Basic, and so on. Some languages are more popular than others, the same way English is more popular than Icelandic or Dutch."

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