Scientists Side With Google in Oracle Appeal

     (CN) – Thirty-two computer scientists urged the Federal Circuit to block Oracle from overextending copyright protection in a manner that they say will stifle innovation.
     Oracle first sued Google in 2010 for copyright and patent infringement over the use of Java source code in Google’s Android phones. Oracle claimed that Google rushed the Android operating system to the market by copying application programming interfaces (APIs) and technology patented by Sun Microsystems. Oracle acquired Sun and its Java technology in 2010.
     In May 2012, a jury handed down a mixed verdict in the copyright portion of the trial, finding that Google infringed Oracle’s copyrights for 37 of 166 Java APIs but not whether the copying constituted fair use. The jury cleared Google of other copyright infringement charges.
     The same jury also cleared Google of patent infringement claims in the second phase of the trial. U.S. District Judge William Alsup later overturned the copyright infringement verdict when he decided that APIs cannot be copyrighted.
     On Thursday, 32 scientists filed an amicus, or friend-of-the-court, brief that asks the 9th Circuit to uphold that decision.
     “As computer scientists, amici have relied on the open nature of APIs and the programs built on them to create and operate new software,” the brief states. “Amici depend on APIs remaining open to sustain widespread compatibility standards used by startups and incumbents alike. Reversing the District Court would dangerously undermine the settled expectations of computer scientists who rely upon the open nature of APIs.”
     The Electronic Frontier Foundation, the digital civil liberties group representing the group of scientists, which includes MS-DOS author Tim Paterson and ARPANET developer Larry Roberts.
     It warns that the consequences of a reversal of the decision “would be severe.”
     “The law is already clear that computer languages are mediums of communication and aren’t copyrightable,” EFF attorney Julie Samuels said in a statement. “Even though copyright might cover what was creatively written in the language, it doesn’t cover functions that must all be written in the same way.”
     APIs are similarly functional – they are specifications allowing programs to communicate with each other,” she added. “As Judge Alsup found, under the law APIs are simply not copyrightable material.”

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