...big Red tells us it immediately plans to appeal
Google has won the latest round in its long-running battle with Oracle over the use of Java class library APIs in Android.
A San Francisco jury today found that Google's reuse
of Java's core software interfaces in its own mobile operating system
should be considered Fair Use
– meaning Google can avoid paying royalties to Oracle.
The unanimous decision blows away an earlier finding in favor of Oracle and protects Google from having to pay out potentially nearly $10bn in damages
In January, Oracle revealed in court that Google has banked $31bn in
sales and $22bn in profit from Android since it launched in 2008 –
figures Google fought fiercely to keep secret.
Way back in 2010, Oracle sued Google
for copyright infringement, accusing the search kingpin of ripping off
Oracle's Java language APIs for its Android platform without paying a
dime for the designs. Oracle acquired Java when it bought Sun
Microsystems that year.
Last year, Oracle successfully argued
that it can copyright its software interfaces – not just its software,
but the way Java's core library code interfaces with applications: the
function names, parameters, and so on. Google's Java implementation was
initially based on the open-source Apache Harmony, though early on
Oracle reckoned the web giant had lifted pages
of header files from Oracle's copyrighted source to craft Android.
Eventually, a trial jury deadlocked on whether or not
Android's infringement of Oracle's copyright constituted Fair Use, thus
punting the brouhaha into this month for another round
of legal arguments. In the background to this, Google has been lining up
the open-source OpenJDK Java class libraries for future Android builds so it can ditch its Harmony-derived code. Who oversees OpenJDK
Why, Oracle, of course – which still wants money from earlier releases
of Google's mobile OS regardless of whatever development kit it's using
On Thursday this week, after fewer than four days of
deliberation, a jury decided, with the flick of a pen, that it is fair
for Android to lift Oracle's API designs:
It means, for now, that, yes, software interfaces can
be copyrighted but copying them – just the designs, not the actual code
behind them – is OK: it's Fair Use in America, a new precedent has been
set. You can read the instructions to the jury from the judge, here
Backers of Google, including the EFF, hailed the
verdict as good news for programmers. They feared an Oracle win would
have put many smaller developers at risk of legal action by simply
reimplementing someone else's software interfaces.
"It was everyone's understanding that you are allowed
to reimplement these APIs, and that is how you have seen software
development and interoperability work throughout history," the EFF's
Parker Higgins told the The Reg earlier
Though the decision is a win for Google, the case
will not be resolved any ti
me soon. Oracle plans to appeal the outcome
and pursue another court showdown on the matter.
Minutes after the verdict was read out, a spokesperson for Google told El Reg
Today's verdict that Android makes fair use
of Java APIs represents a win for the Android ecosystem, for the Java
programming community, and for software developers who rely on open and
free programming languages to build innovative consumer products.
And Oracle's General Counsel Dorian Daley told us:
We strongly believe that Google developed
Android by illegally copying core Java technology to rush into the
mobile device market. Oracle brought this lawsuit to put a stop to
Google’s illegal behavior. We believe there are numerous grounds for
appeal and we plan to bring this case back to the Federal Circuit on
IDC software analyst Al Hilwa noted that "the ruling
certainly sets a high bar for creativity before deserving protection
from fair use."
"APIs are used pervasively in software for
interoperability, and so most developers would likely prefer not to be
burdened by copyrights around APIs," he sad.
"Also, when you look at the shift that is taking
place towards open source you can say that the licensing of copyrights
overall, in the world of developer platforms and tools, has trended
towards more permissive licensing.
"Still, many companies and developers want to be free
to protect their creativity in any manner they wish. I think this is a
situation where Oracle feels deeply that it has been wronged and has
pursued every approach possible to get remedy. I think protection
through APIs was not their first choice in seeking remedy."
In court, as it slowly dawned on Google's dazed
lawyers that they had won, and Oracle's legal eagles were stunned into
silence, Judge William Alsup thanked the jury for being "so attentive"
and for their "extreme hard work" in following the rather technical
Source: Shaun Nichols and Chris Williams