Automattic (WordPress) States Explicitly That It Won't Claim Copyright Over Its APIs

from the free-'em-up dept

In the wake of last week’s horrible ruling saying that APIs are covered by copyright, we’ve pointed out that the negative impact on innovation could be massive, creating chilling effects concerning all sorts of development. Thankfully, at least some companies are being fairly proactive in distancing themselves from the crazy idea that APIs can be covered by copyright. Automattic, the makers of WordPress, just amended their API Terms of Use to make it explicit that they don’t believe APIs are copyrightable subject matter, and they will not claim copyright on them:

[Update: 5.12.2014] One more thing – APIs like ours enable the kind of collaboration that makes the Internet great. We don’t think APIs are copyrightable subject matter, and don’t claim copyright in our APIs.

This is good to see, and hopefully we’ll see other companies with APIs doing the same thing. It will help separate out companies that want to encourage open innovation — from those who want to lock things down. In the end, perhaps this whole thing will even backfire on Oracle, as it makes people that much less interested in working on technologies from a company looking to lock up innovation.

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Companies: automattic

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Comments on “Automattic (WordPress) States Explicitly That It Won't Claim Copyright Over Its APIs”

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Anonymous Coward says:

[Update: 5.12.2014] One more thing ? APIs like ours enable the kind of collaboration that makes the Internet great. We don?t think APIs are copyrightable subject matter, and don?t claim copyright in our APIs.

I’m not sure this will have any legal meaning since copyright is automatic, and they’re not disclaiming copyright. Perhaps WordPress should explicitly place them in the public domain using using Creative Commons.

Anonymous Coward says:

The statement “… and don?t claim copyright in our APIs”

To me, I believe that to be an omission of their claim to copyright their APIs. Also, since they are using the GNU GPLv2+ license on their software, it’s already meant to be open source and available to all in whole or part as long as there is no profit to be made on their work and that any portions not changed are still referenced back to them as the rightful “owners/developers” and made public to anyone using a 3rd party software based on their code.

Pragmatic says:

Re: Re:

Damn, and they were doing so well… perhaps if someone points the inconsistencies out to them, they’ll fix them.

It’s important to ensure that APIs are not copyrighted as they affect interoperability; assigning intellectual property rights to them is anti-competitive and anti-ethical to a fair and open market. We might never have a free market, but is it too much to ask for a fair one?

Anonymous Coward says:

Embed java dependencies with an executable?
Rely on other apps but with your implementation of specific api functions?
Fuck you!

Everyone should rewrite all the code not to use the api. A lot of the custom apps that businesses use are now infringing copyright.

Oracle is deprecated.
God help the guys who now have 100+ apps to rewrite just because their boss installed a custom new printer system. Before they could have just rewrote the function linked from the api and rebuilt the apps.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re:

If the Oracle decision holds up, then I think we’ll see this happen. The problem isn’t the small developer with hundreds of apps. The problem is the large software houses that have large single applications that consist of hundred of thousands to millions of lines of Java code (I work at such a company). There is no way that it is economically feasible to rewrite that stuff, so it will take years those guys to disentangle from Java.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re:

I feel more for the little guy in this situation. With a large scale you have a chance to migrate and the structure would be there to accommodate such a task, even though it is the same terrible task. The “little” guy would just go into work one morning and his boss would already have the new printer or whatever wired up.

One or two guys rewriting 100+ apps that have accumulated “api infringement” over years would be an almost impossible task too. Especially considering on-site coders spent the last 10+ years customizing the java api to integrate apps easily into the “work system”. Now they don’t just have to customize the api, they have to write all the functions, build classes, reference all the new functions etc… basically rewrite all the apps that they probably didn’t write in the first place.

Same problem. The scale doesn’t really make much of a difference in that respect. It’s just the way bosses in large-ish firms with only one or two coders operate. They just appear with shit that they want integrated and don’t really consider the work involved.

John Fenderson (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Good points. The main difference I was seeing was the cost of making the port. If you have application X and application Y, where Y is 100 times larger than X, it will cost more than 100 times as much (“cost” meaning total time and effort, not money) to port Y than X.

For really huge applications, the economics make such a port impossible. This means that it won’t happen — the best that can be hoped for is to let the application run the normal life cycle and drop it completely at the end.

I was not talking about who to feel sorry for — like you, I feel sorry for everyone. I was talking about who is in a better position to migrate away from Java, and that is the producers of smaller apps. So we’ll see them go first.

Oracle has fucked over the entire industry, and there are only losers as far as the eye can see. Oracle itself might be a winner in the short term, but I think this will cost them more than it was worth in the longer term.

Uriel-238 (profile) says:

Yeah! Wouldn't CC be better?

I’m with Anonymous Coward @ 1. copyright law is such that someone will be able to claim Automattic’s APIs as their own IP and troll WordPress and anyone else who uses them.

This has been an issue of my own in designing a game that borrows conventions from other IP now that there’s a precedent that game conventions (such as tapping a card — turning it sideways — to activate it’s abilities, now owned by WOTC) can be patented. Should all these elements I want to remain freely available be turned into creative commons? (In this case I’d use a service such as the patent commons project that was started to preserve Linux code.)

I’d think because trolling is so easy and so often done, we’d want to Creative Commons (or some equivilant) everything we possibly can, especially since it appears plausible to try to require licensing for every little practice (the word “the”, Hitler, photographing birds, Putting one’s name on his underwear, et. al.)

As of this posting I have not received a US National Security Letter or any classified gag order from an agent of the United States
This post does not contain an encrypted secret message
Thursday, May 15, 2014 3:53:53 PM
paperclip belt microphone fever artillery scarecrow wave chimp

Jeffro (profile) says:

Automattic Doesn't Make WordPress

For starters, Automattic doesn’t make WordPress. They are the parent company of which is a service. A completely seperate entity of WordPress the open source project. Also worth noting that Automattic doesn’t own WordPress.

Ok, now that that’s out of the way, someone mentioned that section three of their document still referenced copyright claims to their APIs. They’ve since updated the text.

(3. Intellectual Property. [The Automattic APIs are subject to certain intellectual property rights in the US and other countries (though Automattic does not claim copyrights in the Automattic APIs that may arise under US law). You agree to abide by such rights, all applicable laws, and any additional copyright notices or restrictions to which any Content is subject.])

That change coincides with their statement of not claiming copyrights on the APIs.

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