Did Google break Oracle's copyright? Can APIs even be copyrighted?


The jury is out (literally) on the first, critical phase in the case of Oracle v Google. It's a decision that could have huge, far-reaching effects on software developers. Let's unpick it, in The Long View...

In case you've not been following every twist and turn of the case, Oracle (NASDAQ:ORCL) accuses Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) of intellectual property violations -- both copyright and patents. Google argues that the copyright claims have no legal basis and that the patents are invalid.

In this first phase, the jury gets to decide on the copyright aspects, which center around the Java API. Google says its implementation was a clean-room, reverse-engineering of the Java virtual machine. Oracle says that Google would still need a license to use the Java API, because it's copyrighted -- in order to reverse-engineer something that's API-compatible, you have to use that API, it argues.

What a pickle. And what a critical decision for the future of software!

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