If Oracle prevails in its claim that APIs can be copyrighted, nearly every aspect of programming will be changed for the worse.
Oracle v. Google: Tour The Evidence
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
Oracle is a company that's never particularly cottoned to developers. While Microsoft and Google have developer DNA wired deeply into their genes, Oracle is first and foremost a database company that prides itself on ruthlessly pursuing its business agenda with a take-no-prisoners approach.
Whether its reckless approach to technology appeals to developers or any other community matters little to the company. Because Oracle stands for nothing but its own interests and because of its long history of aggression, it is feared by all market segments it touches: suppliers, competitors, and its own customers.
There is little surprise then to see it in court in San Francisco fighting Google, claiming patent infringement due to the latter's development of the Android operating system. Google, certainly no stranger to pushing the legal limits in its quest to access as much data as possible, is hardly a friend to licensing and copyright. Its fights with the publishing industry over copyrights are legendary and have generally forced Google to backtrack. Its expansive view of its access to data is at the heart of current uproars over Street View and the newly announced Google Drive.
So, it seems almost inevitable that the two behemoths would meet in court one day. Initially, Oracle's suit and Google counter-suit looked to be one of those slow-moving affairs that was fascinating to watch from a distance in much the same way as the trial pitting the U.S. Department of Justice against Microsoft a decade ago.
However, events in San Francisco quickly took a sinister turn when Oracle posited an ominous theory: that Google had violated Oracle's Java copyrights by re-implementing Java APIs in Android. The question of the copyrightability of APIs is the hinge on which the first part of the trial now rests, and it provides a disturbing vision of how software development might look should Oracle prove this claim.
In a nutshell, if the jury sides with Oracle that the copyrights in the headers of every file of the Java source base apply specifically to the syntax of the APIs, then Oracle can extract payment and penalties from Google for having implemented those APIs without Oracle's blessing (or, in more specific terms, without a license).
Should this come to pass, numerous products will suddenly find themselves on an uncertain legal standing in which the previously benign but now newly empowered copyright holders might assert punitive copyright claims.
InformationWeek is conducting a survey to get a baseline look at where enterprises stand on their IPv6 deployments, with a focus on problem areas, including security, training, budget, and readiness. Upon completion of our survey, you will be eligible to enter a drawing to receive an 16-GB Apple iPad. Take our InformationWeek IPv6 Survey now. Survey ends May 11.
InformationWeek Tech Digest, Nov. 10, 2014Just 30% of respondents to our new survey say their companies are very or extremely effective at identifying critical data and analyzing it to make decisions, down from 42% in 2013. What gives?