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Fri Oct 9, 2020, 06:13 AM

Google's Supreme Court faceoff with Oracle was a disaster for Google


Google’s Supreme Court faceoff with Oracle was a disaster for Google

Supreme Court justices seem poised to allow copyrights on APIs.

TIMOTHY B. LEE - 10/8/2020, 11:00 AM

The Supreme Court's eight justices on Wednesday seemed skeptical of Google's argument that application programming interfaces (APIs) are not protected by copyright law. The high court was hearing oral arguments in Google's decade-long legal battle with Oracle. Oracle argues that Google infringed its copyright in the Java programming language when it re-implemented Java APIs for use by Android app developers.

The stakes in the case are high for Google, which could owe Oracle billions of dollars in damages. More importantly, an Oracle win could reshape how copyright law treats APIs, giving incumbents the power to lock out competitors who want to build compatible software.

For decades prior to Oracle's lawsuit, most people in the software industry assumed that APIs couldn't be copyrighted. That meant a software company could re-implement the APIs of a competitor's product in order to enable software, designed to work with the competitor's product, to work with its own.

A win for Oracle would call that into question. That would not only generate extra work for copyright lawyers, it could lead to a world where software compatibility problems crop up more often in everyday life. It could also directly affect the livelihoods of computer programmers, who might find they are more frequently forced to learn new programming languages or other software tools when they switch jobs.


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Reply Google's Supreme Court faceoff with Oracle was a disaster for Google (Original post)
sl8 Oct 9 OP
hunter Oct 9 #1

Response to sl8 (Original post)

Fri Oct 9, 2020, 08:51 AM

1. This could backfire badly for Oracle when their precious API becomes dust in their hands.

Open source tools like WebAssembly will let programmers write in any language they choose, for any device, bypassing Oracle's intellectual property claims.


WebAssembly is supported by Mozilla, Microsoft, Google, Apple, Fastly, Intel, and Red Hat.

Google and others will create developer tools that will partially automate the conversion of existing apps to open source APIs, which will leave Oracle without any focal point for their legal intimidation tactics.

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