Oracle’s victory over Google on API copyright may impact software development

Venkatesh Ganesh Bangalore | Updated on November 25, 2017

A victory for Oracle but it is set to create divisions within the industry.

Excluding APIs from copyright protection key to development of the Internet

Technology major Oracle’s victory over Google in a recent lawsuit over copyrighting Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) may cause additional problems to software developers and impact how various IT systems interact with each other in the future.

The issue dates back to 2010, when Oracle alleged that Google had violated its Java copyright with the inclusion of 37 Java APIs within its Android mobile operating system (which is based on open source code). APIs are piece of code that help in the performance of a task. For example, if you give a print job from your Dell PC to an HP printer, the software that interprets this task is enabled by an API.

Web development

The problem happens when one company alleges that the other is violating copyright and cannot use a particular piece of software. Simply put, it is like saying Harry Potter can be copyrighted but the gist of the novel cannot be copyrighted.

Analysts believe that excluding APIs from copyright protection has been essential to the development of modern computers and the Internet.

While, in principle, a company may have a case, the software ecosystem has not believed in laying down stringent rules on usage of software. Industry watchers are, however, concerned that this ruling may set a precedent, and may impact the software industry as a whole. “Actions like these create uncertainty for companies making investment in products using open source,” said Steve Forte, Chief Strategy Officer, Telerik, a software development company that believes in developing open source solutions.

According to Sanchit Vir Gogia, an analyst at Greyhound Research, this development will create divisions within the industry as it goes against the principles of code-sharing, which is essential for software development.

In a statement , the Electronic Frontier Foundation said: “As we and others tried to explain to the court, the freedom to re-implement and extend existing APIs has been the key to competition and progress in both hardware and software development, which has made possible mainframe, client/sever, PC and other technologies possible.”

When contacted, an Oracle spokesperson refused to comment.

Published on May 21, 2014

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