Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Why Google’s fair use victory over Oracle matters; Guardian, 5/31/16

Pamela Samuelson, Guardian; Why Google’s fair use victory over Oracle matters:
"Further cascades of liability could have happened outside the Android ecosystem. An Oracle victory in the Google case would have emboldened other software firms with valuable APIs to become more aggressive in challenging unlicensed uses of those APIs. Someone wanting to develop a program to run on another firm’s platform must use that platform’s API to enable the second program to interoperate with the platform. (Think of an API as an information equivalent to the plug and socket configurations that are necessary for physical devices to interoperate with the electrical grid.) If the second program isn’t configured to send and receive information in the precise way that the first program’s API specifies, it just won’t work at all.
If the developer of an API owns copyright in that API, it can say no to any unlicensed use of it. Or it can condition its willingness to license use of the API on high royalties or impose restrictions on the other firm’s development (such as forbidding adaptation of the same program to run on other platforms).
Since 1992, courts have overwhelmingly rejected copyright claims in program interface specifications. These rulings are consistent with the prevailing norm in the computing industry since its early days: that it is OK to use another firm’s API as long as the second firm reimplements the API in independently written code. Over the past two decades, the software industry has thrived because the court rulings converged with industry norms that allow innovative software developers to build upon existing programs and platforms to offer consumers many choices of products for smart phones and other computing devices."

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