This is a biggy, right up there with software-patents, “Google told the justices in a petition this week that assigning copyright to the codeâ€”the Application Programming Interfaces that enable programs to talk to one anotherâ€”sets a dangerous precedent.
The appellate court’s May ruling, Google said, allows "copyright monopolies over the basic building blocks of computer design and programming."
Google said the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit’s decision would have allowed the Remington typewriter maker to stop others from using the QWERTY keyboard layout.” copyright for APIs of software. Copyright should not apply to other’s works. If you write software to work with some API, no other authour should be able to forbid that or to tax that. Yet, that’s what Oracle wants to do and they found a lower court that agreed with that despite that being an illegal extension of copyright to others’ work. Stranger still, Java is FLOSS…
One can think of many practical examples of analogous cases which obviously don’t make sense. Because it’s software under consideration there should not be a different take. e.g. tires – if a maker of automobiles comes up with a new pattern of lugs, should makers of wheels be forbidden to make wheels for it? Nope. This is copyright, not patents. A wheel is not a derivative work of a hub.
e.g. doors – if a carpenter builds a house with a new size of door, should he be able to claim copyright exclusion on all the doors made for that size? Nope. Dimensions are not a creative work. They’re just numbers.
e.g. poetry – if I wrote a poem right here with a new structure of stanza, should I be able to exclude all other authours from using that structure for decades? Nope. Structure is not a creative work. It’s an arbitrary choice with no creativity at all. The creativity comes from finding new ways to exploit a new structure, not using the structure.
In any other field this matter would have been laughed out of court but because software is strange to lawyers and Oracle and Google are big rich corporations, it gets the time of day.
Let’s hope the Supremes do the right thing. They haven’t yet agreed to consider the case but it is vital and they do care about special cases like this where people overreach and courts get things wrong. Oracle’s response is due November 7.