The Google/Oracle decision was bad for copyright and bad for software

3 06 2016
Oracle’s long-running lawsuit against Google has raised two contentious questions. The first is whether application programming interfaces (APIs) should be copyrightable at all. The second is whether, if they are copyrightable, repurposing portions of those APIs can be done without a license in the name of “fair use.”

In the first trial between the companies, the court ruled that Google had copied portions of Java but that these copied portions were mere APIs; as such, they were not protected by copyright law. An appeals court later reversed this part of the decision, asserting that the “structure, sequence, and organization” of an API was in fact protectable by copyright. The case was then returned to the trial court to ascertain whether the (previously acknowledged) copying of (now copyright-protected) Oracle material was an infringement of copyright.


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