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  Oracle are winning in the 'copyright an api' legal fight  (Read 17839 times)
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Offline Abuse

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« Reply #30 - Posted 2015-07-01 10:14:48 »

I really don't see how APIs can be copyrighted; they're not an expression of an idea, they're a document describing an idea. The expression of the idea is the implementation itself.

The parallel is patent submissions; they too are documents describing an idea, and sensibly they are (by default at least) not subject to copyright.
Offline ags1

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« Reply #31 - Posted 2015-07-01 10:18:00 »

Of course an building an API is creative work. Building a good API requires thought, experience,design, and interaction with the millions of API users. Sun/Oracle have spent many thousands of hours getting the API right independently of the (far simpler) work of actually implementing the methods.

Offline princec

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« Reply #32 - Posted 2015-07-01 10:38:26 »

I really don't see how APIs can be copyrighted; they're not an expression of an idea, they're a document describing an idea. The expression of the idea is the implementation itself.
1. Documents can be copyrighted - it does not matter what the content of the document is. If the contents are substantially copied into another document, you've copied it, and if you don't have the right to make a copy of it, you're in breach of copyright. This much is simple to grok.
2. I very much disagree that an expression of an idea is not itself an idea.

I suspect that the judgement will end up being something describing a level of grey between the black and white of "Google having done wrong" and "Oracle having no rights". The scale of Google's wrongdoing will be taken into account; and thus a decision could be made that will, yes, make copying copyrighted APIs a breach of copyright but only when the scale is deemed to be substantial. Something like the protections people have when using samples, or excerpts from novels - you can get away with a certain amount of lifting but at the point you take someone's work in its entirety or even a substantial amount of it - you risk being sued for breach.

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Offline nsigma
« Reply #33 - Posted 2015-07-01 10:52:28 »

I really don't see how APIs can be copyrighted; they're not an expression of an idea,

I agree with @ags1 and @princec.  In quite a lot of my code, particularly the public facing API's, often more work goes into creating the API than into its implementation.  Individual method behaviour is defined by the API, and individual method implementations can often be trivial.  It is the API that defines the process and therefore the API that is the expression of the idea.  Actual code is "just" an implementation detail.  Wink

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Offline Abuse

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« Reply #34 - Posted 2015-07-01 10:57:18 »

....but processes are not subject to copyright.

If Oracle's current claim is that Google copied portions of documents describing the API, then fair enough.
The breach is copying the documents describing the API, not copying the API itself.

If Google (actually Apache~Harmony) had extracted the APIs from rt.jar, I think their 'fair use' defence would be stronger.

The US really needs to add an interoperability exception to their copyright law....

Offline princec

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« Reply #35 - Posted 2015-07-01 11:12:36 »

Well... I don't know that they do need to add an exception. There are whole businesses that are based upon licensing interopability, predicated on the fact that it takes a huge effort to define an interface and someone's gotta be rewarded for that effort.

My personal desired outcome? Oracle and Google settle out of court. Google pays Oracle a reasonable license fee, and in return, get proper Java for Android. All problems solved.

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Offline nsigma
« Reply #36 - Posted 2015-07-01 11:18:42 »

....but processes are not subject to copyright.

Much as I dislike quoting Wikipedia

Quote
copyright for computer programs prohibits not only literal copying, but also copying of "nonliteral elements", such as program's structure, sequence and organization. These non-literal aspects, however, can be protected only "to the extent that they incorporate authorship in programmer's expression of original ideas, as distinguished from the ideas themselves."

What I'm saying is that an API could embody all of the expression of the idea, where the implementation of each individual method (the code) is trivial / only expressible in one form and therefore can't be copyrighted.

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Offline Abuse

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« Reply #37 - Posted 2015-07-01 12:06:56 »

What I'm saying is that an API could embody all of the expression of the idea, where the implementation of each individual method (the code) is trivial / only expressible in one form and therefore can't be copyrighted.

Surely it's quite the opposite though; the API can *only* be expressed in one form, a precise set of class, field & method signatures.
If any deviation from this precise set is made, the function of the API changes and is no longer compatible.
While the API as a whole is complex, it is also in its simplest form, as it cannot be expressed in any other way without changing its function.

Just as a trivial method body cannot be copyrighted (there is no other way of implementing it), an API cannot be copyrighted because it too is in its simplest expressible form & cannot be constructed in any other way while retaining compatibility.
Offline princec

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« Reply #38 - Posted 2015-07-01 12:21:36 »

That's not the point... the point is it can be copyrighted. Just because it can only exist in one compatible form does not mean you have the right to distribute it.

Cas Smiley

Offline nsigma
« Reply #39 - Posted 2015-07-01 12:47:20 »

Surely it's quite the opposite though; the API can *only* be expressed in one form,

That's a tautological argument.  The process(es) which the API expresses could be expressed in another form as a different API.

a precise set of class, field & method signatures.

And documented behaviour!  Without that the API is pretty much worthless.  With that, in particular in the specification of behaviour between components, you start to get the expression of the idea (IMO).

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Offline KevinWorkman

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« Reply #40 - Posted 2015-07-01 13:06:49 »

Off the topic of this thread...but that's exactly what they didn't do.  They cut corners and actually did violate copyrights.  This was demonstrated by the internal memos.  An important part of US law is intent and they stepped over the line and the completed system was not clean-room.

Maybe I don't understand the details of the argument, so can you provide any sources that explain how Android "cut corners"?

Most of my information is coming from this wikipedia article and this EFF article, and neither one mentions anything other than reimplementing the API.

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Offline CommanderKeith
« Reply #41 - Posted 2015-07-02 06:09:03 »

Surely it's quite the opposite though; the API can *only* be expressed in one form,

That's a tautological argument.  The process(es) which the API expresses could be expressed in another form as a different API.

a precise set of class, field & method signatures.

And documented behaviour!  Without that the API is pretty much worthless.  With that, in particular in the specification of behaviour between components, you start to get the expression of the idea (IMO).

@Abuse's point is interesting. If copying the entire api is not possible, then compatibility is broken. Applying this logic to vmware and other hypervisors, which rip off entire operating systems' apis, they are all illegally copying (and distributing, @princec) and owe licensing fees to Apple and Microsoft.
Indeed, Java itself rips off windows apis such as the file system, or windowing toolkit, and every other api that exposes operating system functionality. Therefore oracle owes licensing fees to the operating system developers.
Obviously this is silly, but this chain of thought seems consistent with oracle's and some of your arguments.

Offline nsigma
« Reply #42 - Posted 2015-07-02 07:58:49 »

If copying the entire api is not possible, then compatibility is broken.

Not necessarily, because interoperability would come under fair use.  Interesting in this case is that Google deliberately designed Android not to be compatible ...

Obviously this is silly, but this chain of thought seems consistent with oracle's and some of your arguments.

My only argument is that it's a somewhat arbitrary line deciding that code can be copyright but API's can't, as if they exist in some vacuum from each other.

Incidentally it seems at some point Google tried to argue that code shouldn't be copyrightable either, only patentable.  Oh joy!  See, neither side is right in this argument but both sides may (inadvertently) f**k things up even more than they are already.  Wink

I'm on neither side - I'm sitting on the fence munching popcorn.

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