The case Google v. Oracle America [supremecourt.gov], previously named Oracle America, Inc. v. Google, Inc., is being heard by the US Supreme Court. At the center of the case is whether programmers require permission to use an application programming interface (API). The outcome will determine the extent to which APIs can or should be copyrighted. If it turns out that copyright can be used to lock competitors out of using any given API, then there are severe repercussions for software development, as as good as all programs these days rely heavily on pre-existing libararies which are then accessed via APIs.
Google: The case for open innovation [blog.google]:
The Court will review whether copyright should extend to nuts-and-bolts software interfaces, and if so, whether it can be fair to use those interfaces to create new technologies, as the jury in this case found. Software interfaces are the access points that allow computer programs to connect to each other, like plugs and sockets. Imagine a world in which every time you went to a different building, you needed a different plug to fit the proprietary socket, and no one was allowed to create adapters.
This case will make a difference for everyone who touches technology—from startups to major tech platforms, software developers to product manufacturers, businesses to consumers—and we’re pleased that many leading representatives of those groups will be filing their own briefs to support our position.
At bottom in the case is the issue of whether copyright law bars the commonplace practice of software reimplementation, “[t]he process of writing new software to perform certain functions of a legacy product.” (Google brief p.7) Here, Google had repurposed certain functional elements of Java SE (less that 0.5% of Java SE overall, according to Google’s brief, p. 8) in its Android operating system for the sake of interoperability—enabling Java apps to work with Android and Android apps to work with Java, and enabling Java developers to build apps for both platforms without needing to learn the new conventions and structure of an entirely new platform.
Devclass: Google says nature of APIs under threat as Oracle case heads to US Supreme Court [devclass.com]:
The case – ten years in making – centres on Oracle’s claims that its Java patents and copyrights were infringed by Google when the search giant created its Android mobile operating system. An initial ruling in Google’s favour was overturned on appeal, and the case is finally due to land in the Supreme Court this year. Google filed its opening brief for the justices this week.
When was the last time, outside of school, when you yourself have written a program entirely from scratch and not used even a single set of application programming interfaces? Yeah. Thought so.