Monday, May 30, 2016

Why Google's victory in a copyright fight with Oracle is a big deal; Vox, 5/26/16

Timothy B. Lee, Vox; Why Google's victory in a copyright fight with Oracle is a big deal:
"Google's version of Java didn't reuse any code from Oracle's version. But to ensure compatibility, Google's version used functions with the same names and functionality.
This practice was widely viewed as legal within the software world at the time Google did it, but Oracle sued, arguing that this was copyright infringement. Oracle argued that the list of Java function names and features constitutes a creative work, and that Google infringed Oracle's copyright when it included functions with the same names and features.
Google argued that the list of function names, known as an application programming interface (API), was not protected by copyright law.
Google's defenders pointed to a landmark 1995 ruling in which an appeals court held that the software company Borland had not infringed copyright when it created a spreadsheet program whose menus were organized in the same way as the menus in the more popular spreadsheet Lotus 1-2-3.
The court held that the order of Lotus 1-2-3 menu items was an uncopyrightable "method of operation." And it concluded that giving Lotus exclusive ownership over its menu structure would harm the public...
Google believed that its own copying was directly analogous to what Borland had done. There were thousands of programmers with expertise in writing Java programs. By designing its platform to respond to the same set of programming commands as Oracle's Java system, Google allowed Java programmers to become Android programmers with minimal training — just as Borland's decision to copy Lotus's menu structure avoided unnecessary training for seasoned Lotus 1-2-3 users."

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