Side Show In Oracle, Google Patent Fight: Are API's Covered By Copyright?
from the we-may-find-out dept
While the main event in the Oracle lawsuit against Google is around patents, there is an interesting copyright sideshow as well, focused on the question of whether or not Oracle can copyright an API. A couple weeks ago, Google filed for summary judgment on this, noting (among other things) that Sun’s own CTO had flat out declared that “internet specifications are not protectable under copyright,” prior to Oracle buying out Sun. The other key claim is that even if Google copied the API, the accusation has them copying 12 files out of over 50,000, which would qualify for de minimis copying, which is a common defense against minimal copyright infringement.
Oracle has now responded and is arguing that copyright for APIs is perfectly reasonable, claiming that the APIs “contain many original and creative elements.” Just as Google quotes a former Sun CTO, Oracle (somewhat snarkily) quotes a current Google employee (and former Sun employee) in noting, “API design is an art, not a science.”
As Groklaw notes in the above link, Google probably won’t win on the motion for summary judgment on this issue, even if it has a better chance at trial:
Although we don’t buy all of Oracle’s arguments (most importantly, we don’t believe much of what they assert is copyright protected subject matter is, in fact, protected by copyright, such as API’s), Oracle has probably done enough in its response to put the issue of copyright infringement before a jury. Of course, the court still needs to rule on Google’s summary judgment motion.
Indeed. I have trouble seeing how APIs can be covered by copyright. Oracle’s key argument beyond that misleading quote is that creating a good API is “difficult.” Difficulty alone does not determine if something is copyrightable, of course. Either way, allowing for copyright claims on APIs seems like a good way to create a lot more problems for important (legal!) things like reverse engineering. Once again, it seems like stupid intellectual property laws may get in the way of important methods for innovation.