over its use of Java
to build the Android
operating system a few years ago, but Google won the case. However, an appeals court has overturned that ruling, finding that “the declaring code and the structure, sequence, and organization of the API packages are entitled to copyright protection”.
This ruling is a big deal because it could severely limit what software makers can safely do without getting sued and could hamper innovation. Google is of course displeased with the ruling, but others in the industry are none too happy either.
Bryan Cantrill, CTO of Joyent, told Wired
that the notion that you can copyright APIs is a perverted and depraved principle”, and he compared an API as akin to a plot as opposed to a novel. Obviously the content of a novel can be copyrighted, but the logical conclusion that copyrighting a plot is that “everything is derivative.”
There’s still a ways to go in this legal battle, though. The jury was deadlocked on the fair use part of the issue, and so the judge sent this particular aspect of the case back for further consideration.