Oracle wins appeal in copyright battle with Google

Oracle wins appeal in copyright battle with Google

Summary: UPDATED: A U.S. appeals court said Oracle can be granted copyright protection in parts of Java in a battle with Google over Android's inclusion of the code.

TOPICS: Google, Android, Oracle
(Image: CBS Interactive)

In the long-running battle between Oracle vs. Google over the inclusion of Java in the Android operating system, Oracle was awarded an important victory on Friday.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington decided that Oracle should be granted copyright protection over certain parts of Java, the popular programming framework it acquired from Sun Microsystems in 2010, in the ongoing corporate copyright war.

Oracle took Google to court in 2010 alleging that Google had flouted its copyright by including 37 application developer interfaces (APIs) of Java in Android, the world's most popular mobile operating system.

In May 2012, a jury found that Google did not infringe Oracle's patents, but also ruled that the structure of Java APIs used by the search turned mobile giant were not copyrightable.

However, a three judge Federal Circuit panel reversed that ruling on Friday, stating that parts of the code were in fact allowed to be protected by copyright law. 

But a further review is needed to determine exactly the amount of Google's fair use defense.

Oracle's general counsel Dorian Daley said in a statement that the company was "extremely pleased" with the decision, saying Google's attempt would have "drastically limit[ed] copyright protection for computer code."

"The Federal Circuit's opinion is a win for Oracle and the entire software industry that relies on copyright protection to fuel innovation and ensure that developers are rewarded for their breakthroughs. We are confident that the district court will appropriately apply the fair use doctrine on remand, which is not intended to protect naked commercial exploitation of copyrighted material," she added.

Google said it was "disappointed" by the ruling, adding that it "sets a damaging precedent for computer science and software development, and are considering our options."

Updated at 3:05pm ET: with a statement from Google.

Topics: Google, Android, Oracle

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  • oracle = thieves, hypocrites, copyright abusers

    oracle = thieves, hypocrites, copyright abusers
    Just want to destroy the only open source backed by a big company
    Apple+ Microsoft+Oracle = threat against progress
    • anywherehome: "oracle = thieves"

      When Oracle acquired Sun Microsystems in 2010, it included Java. Oracle paid for Java fair and square.
      Rabid Howler Monkey
      • While a technical truth

        I don't think anyone in the tech industry anticipated how terrible Oracle's stewardship would be - they basically purchased a lawsuit in waiting.
        • Without assitance from IBM

          the primary corporate sponsor of The Apache Software Foundation's Harmony Project (which Google dipped into for Dalvik), the Harmony Project would likely still be viable today.

          Oracle has had a bit of help in gaining control over Java.
          Rabid Howler Monkey
        • SRSLY?

          "I don't think anyone in the tech industry anticipated how terrible Oracle's stewardship would be"

          Have you been living under a rock for the last 30 years?
          • No

            I am not for a minute saying I expected Oracle to be good. But you can't honestly tell me that between OpenOffice, Java, the bundled spyware in the enterprise Java install, that you really expected it to be this bad did you?

            We're talking bad for business bad. One thing I never figured Oracle for was actually hurting their own investment.
          • That's Larry Ellison for you

            Larry Ellison is a ruthless competitor and incredibly driven. Notice how he is now old but retirement isn't something he talks about? Remember the hostile takeover of Peoplesoft? He plays to win-pushing the boundaries of ethical behavior to satisfy his own ego. Now, unless SCOTUS rules-and they may not for a long time, if ever, API's apparently now get copyright protection. Interoperability just got a whole lot more expensive...
          • "Interoperability just got a whole lot more expensive..."

            just dump java. anyway, it's getting too old. java will stay like gif, but will be put in its proper place ...
      • It's not about ownership

        It's about what parts of Java can be copyrighted. Nobody is questioning whether Oracle owns Java. It's more along the lines of "can you copyright a 'for' loop?"
        • See the OP's subject line: "oracle = thieves"

          I didn't respond to "oracle = copyright abusers".

          That's TBD as Google will likely appeal this decision to a higher court (as John L. Ries wrote in his comment below).
          Rabid Howler Monkey
        • This has little to do with a for loop.

          And you know it. This is about APIs.
          • You're right...

            ...but that makes this case even more frightening. I almost rather it were about copyrighting for loops than APIs (APIs being even more abstract).
          • You just proved you know little of APIs

            An "abstract" API is the most worthless thing in the world. The entire point of an API is that it is extremely concrete and highly defined. It specifies specific behaviors and relationships and a great API can take thousands of man hours to architect. A great API can make programming massive software project easy.

            Anyone that states APIs are abstract knows nothing about software architecture, design or engineering. I mean nothing. They may be a jack coder but that is all.
          • There are rubbish APIs out there too.

            But at the end of the day, any API is only as good as the code underneath that implements it. Without that implementation, your wonderful piece of software is going to do precisely nothing. And an incorrect or buggy implementation is going to make your life horribly difficult too, if the function that you desperately need to use refuses to behave according to its documentation...
          • Yep. And that "definition" can be copyrighted.

            But that "definition" contains facts on the interface.

            And such facts have not been copyright protected before. Hence, the "fair use" of of the facts is how libraries are written by multiple vendors.

            If that isn't permitted, then Linus could sue Oracle for use of its distribution as they have to use the Linux API under copyright permission, and Oracle has just said that to use it otherwise is illegal...

            Sorry - but the IMPLEMENTATION of an API can be copyrighted, and restricted. The DOCUMENTATION of an API can be copyrighted, and restricted.

            But it has always been possible for alternate IMPLEMENTATION, and alternate DOCUMENTATION to exist.

            If it is no longer legal, then none of the "Whatever for Dummies" books are legal either.
          • Exactly

            That is the whole point here...the API is where the value is, code is just typing.

            You also have to include the 100s of man hours it took to document the API, create samples for the API and support the API. There are very few Java developers out there who care about the code in the functions, they only care about the API and documentation that goes with it.

            For anyone to say it is all about the 'code' and not the API hasn't really got a clue.
          • Sigh, someone else who doesn't understand coding.

            I am a Java programmer and I dispute *every single word* in your ridiculous post.

            I *defy* you to implement something like the Win32 API for yourself, or OpenGL, or POSIX, or any other API that you outrageously claim is "just typing"!
          • And that's the problem

            APIs are the top in the program cake, the hide the moisten and delicious implementation, they're meaningful names with parameters and returns, you can design an API without an implementation code, that's how SUN made sure their partners implemented JAVA in different platforms, they were given a set of functions and they had to re-implement it in their own device. The API is abstract and must always be able to separate from the implementation because the API must be kept the same always but the implementation can change all the time (and that's the beauty of it).

            If you can patent an API design you are patenting a generic abstraction and that's dangerous because that's like patenting the thinking system.

            I have designed an API in the past to leverage other programmers, and at first i made an empty API, just a design and it was very generic (with methods like: AddNewCustomer, GetCustomerById, etc) and later i started implementing the inner code, later i used the same API for another different application and changed just a few things.
      • Time to dump MySQL for MarieDB before the empire strikes back there.

        Copyrighting a language?
        • While I completely get your point...

          ...and I realize this is somewhat congruent to what you're saying, PostgreSQL is also a wonderful alternative.