Not content with making fools of themselves, the folks over at Oracle are having another poke about Android being copyright theft of their Java. They’ve filed with the US Federal Circuit Appeals Court in an attempt to overturn their loss when Judge William H. Alsup of the US District Court ruled that Google was not infringing upon Oracle’s copyright of Java, mainly on the basis that APIs are not covered under copyright.
More specifically, copyright does not protect “names, titles, short phrases or expressions”, including, “catchwords, catchphrases, mottoes, slogans, or short advertising expressions.” Those are covered under trademark law, not copyright law, and it’s a whole different ballgame.
Also not protected by copyright law are, “listing of ingredients, as in recipes, labels, or formulas.” Which in software terms is the same thing as APIs.
So on these grounds, copyright does not cover APIs.
Hence Google hasn’t infringed Oracle’s copyrights by using the Java APIs in Android.
So ruled Judge Alsup.
The court of law set its standards for modern interpretation of aged laws not designed with software engineering in mind. And frankly, pretty much everyone but Oracle agrees with this, gets it, and is perfectly content with it that way.
But losing once wasn’t enough for Oracle. They’re adamant that their misinterpretations of law are correct and so they’re appealing that decision. Which, in theory, they have the right to do.
Of course having potentially billions of dollars at stake might have something to do with their pig-headedness.
But I’m starting to think it’s more of a mental deficiency, to be honest. Here’s how Oracle’s appeal begins:
Ann Droid wants to publish a bestseller. So she sits down with an advance copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix – the fifth book – and proceeds to transcribe. She verbatim copies all the chapter titles – from Chapter 1 (“Dudley Demented”) to Chapter 38 (“The Second War Begins”). She copies verbatim the topic sentences of each paragraph, starting from the first (highly descriptive) one and continuing, in order, to the last, simple one (“Harry nodded.”). She then paraphrases the rest of each paragraph. She rushes the competing version to press before the original under the title: Ann Droid’s Harry Potter 5.0. The knockoff flies off the shelves.
J.K. Rowling sues for copyright infringement. Ann’s defenses: “But I wrote most of the words from scratch. Besides, this was fair use, because I copied only the portions necessary to tap into the Harry Potter fan base.”
Obviously, the defenses would fail.
Defendant Google Inc. has copied a blockbuster literary work just as surely, and as improperly, as Ann Droid – and has offered the same defenses.
Clearly, the state of mind over at Oracle must be questioned if this is their idea of how to write a lawsuit.
The ironic thing is that Oracle’s cute little story of little miss Ann Droid in no way re-examines how APIs should be protected under copyright. It appears that Oracle seems to think that they’ve somehow made a point here, but it only goes to show just how much they’ve actually missed the point, in my opinion. Because essentially their little story of Ann Droid is exactly what anyone working with APIs would and has had to do, by definition. You could no more sue Libre Office for reverse-engineering Word document reading, or Foxit for PDF viewing, or Linux’s Samba and Wine for writing Windows API names and recipes for that matter.
Oracle’s whole short story of Ann Droid centers on writing a book, not on APIs. And seems focused on confusing the laws of copyright, of trademark, and potentially even of patent depending on how you try to interpret what they’re saying and how it could possibly relate to software.
And, in fact, anti-competitive lawsuits have been filed against Microsoft for not documenting their Windows APIs more clearly. (Sometimes if at all.) To intentionally block competitors from using APIs is not kosher.
So how Oracle can somehow think that they’re special and that their APIs are copyrightable is beyond anyone’s ability to comprehend.
But writing a short story about Ann Droid writing a Harry Potter knock-off is a whole new level of WTF?! It’s childish. It’s apples to oranges. It’s ignorant.
Again, Oracle doesn’t seem to comprehend where one law ends and the next begins. They seem to think that trademark law and patent law are all a part of copyright law now, as if the three weren’t completely different things.
But then maybe it’s not gross incompetence / ignorance after all, so much as just desperation. Surely they must know that without a shadow of a doubt they’d lose hands down in a patent law battle, and likewise in a trademark battle. Copyright is the only battleground left that they can even remotely try to claim, and that’s still the longest of long-shots as that is also a clear and obvious lose for them. But with potentially billions of dollars at stake, I guess Oracle figures that it’s worth the chance to play the part of complete and utter fools … just in case they somehow magically conjure up a courtroom equally as foolish. Which, let’s face it, just ain’t gonna happen, even if they try to invoke the magic of Harry Potter.
Frankly, I hope the appellate court slaps them down hard. These ridiculous antics of Oracle are demeaning to the whole judicial system and to software developers alike. But then with so much Java egg on their face already when it comes to security and patches lately, maybe Oracle figures that they’re already chock-full-o’-idiocy, so why not got that extra mile and become the laughing stock of everyone?
I can honestly see a future where no one uses Java anymore not because of security concerns, but because they simple no longer want to have anything to do with Oracle.