If You Think Google Is Too Dominant And Needs More Competition… You Should Actually Support Its Petition Concerning API Copyrights
from the interoperability-depends-on-it dept
Last week, we wrote about the confusion of both the US’s Solicitor General and Oracle’s lead litigator, Annette Hurst, in insisting that APIs are no different than software (and even that they’re executable, which they are not). But, what’s kind of incredible in this case is that, even as Oracle is so obsessively focused on bringing down Google, if it actually wanted to help bring it down, it should want to lose this case.
That may sound backwards, but let me explain. I’ve been talking a lot lately about the concept of protocols over platforms as a way to limit the dominance of giant platforms — indeed, it’s the only reasonable way I can see of leading to real competition in a world of network effects. Any traditional “break up” plan doesn’t work, because you can’t “break up” a global network in the same way you could break up many historical companies. But, what you can do is get them to open up their APIs or to make it easier to get data out of their systems in a way that is interoperable with other platforms.
But that’s much, much harder if APIs are locked down with copyright, as Oracle is pushing for. To be fair, Google itself has always been much more open than lots of other companies in similar situations, but if we want true adversarial interoperability, as Cory Doctorow has highlighted, one way to help that along is to make sure that APIs can’t be locked down, and that reverse engineering compatibility is free for anyone. That’s how you build true competition — and Oracle’s case might shut down that important avenue.