And this helps us how…

In its legal struggle with Google (GOOG), Oracle (ORCL) is arguing for a new understanding of copyright that would make all software, even open source, de-facto proprietary.

As FossPatents reports, Oracle is arguing that Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and program names, even subroutine names, should have the same copyright protection as the underlying code. And that such protection should be absolute.

In other words, Oracle could not only claim copyright over the mySQL database, but over the interfaces that connect it to other programs, and the names of the routines within the program.

This would make interoperability – a key to tying software together – impossible without the express permission and (perhaps payment to) the copyright holder. And that permission could be withheld, or taken back, at the copyright holder’s whim.
[…]
In essence, all software would become proprietary, to the copyright holder, which could absolutely control everything done in its name – its whole ecosystem – vetoing any connection to current software for the length of the copyright term, which can now mean a century or more.




  1. cgp says:

    Remember the most restrictive licenses were proposed by academics, those with tenure who don’t know what funding is.

  2. Thomas says:

    Continued from #30
    “If Oracle is claiming that Google created a copy of Java ”

    Said a better way, if Oracle is claiming they have copyright authority over any implementation of one of their public APIs, then they are smoking crack. It would mean that anyone that writes an interface to read and write to say a MySQL database could be liable to Oracle.

  3. GregAllen says:

    >> Thomas said,
    >> Just the opposite. Oracle is saying that if you make an interface to talk to MySQL, Oracle can own it/kill it/have rights to it.

    OK, that makes more sense — sort of.

    MySQL is GPL, right? What part of MySQL is proprietary to Oracle so that they can claim ownership of programs that link to it?

  4. sargasso_c says:

    As interesting as watching flies on a mountain of horse manure.

  5. Thomas says:

    #33

    Even under GPL when using MySQL, Oracle technically manages the rights and there is an obligation not to rebrand the MySQL source and call it your own. So, I’m hearing through various articles two different stories. One story is that Google created an implementation to a public API and Oracle is trying to stop the distribution (which would apparently be most versions of Android) claiming that they own the rights to anything that implements one of their APIs. If that’s true, Oracle is smoking crack. The other story I hear is that Google literally copied tons of code out of the open source API and is claiming they don’t owe anything since they are not charging for it. If that’s the case, then I get Oracle’s beef.

  6. Thomas says:

    #33
    Btw, I’m not sure that MySQL is actually the software at issue here. I actually think that it is Java that is subject of the case.

  7. ECA says:

    I can see it now..
    Each and every line, ANY posible combination, including the mistakes..in 3 line sets…ALL COPY RIGHTED..
    Im waiting for someone to COPYRIGHT the American language..

  8. chris says:

    #26 “Just the opposite. Oracle is saying that if you make an interface to talk to MySQL, Oracle can own it/kill it/have rights to it.”

    That is basically what Apple does, right? Oracle is just trying to do it after the fact.

  9. tomdennis says:

    I can see the revolt against Oracle here on this page. Oracle you will be boycotted and the code you think is yours will be removed or used elsewhere. Nice try. Slime Stealth does not work here. I think “Etch a Sketch” should sue Apple for reapplying their 1959 patent in their tablet.

  10. danthemanlavitan says:

    right, time to go and shoot the head of oracle in the face. who’s with me?

  11. freddybobs68k says:

    @Thomas

    “MS wanted to use Java to drive all its products and Sun balked at MS adding extensions to the language. So, MS dumped the idea of using Java entirely and built the .NET Framework which has since dwarfed Java.”

    What makes you think MS wanted to drive all its products with Java?

    What makes you believe MS adding extensions was to do with driving their products? There was plenty of reasons for them to do so – if not just strategically to break Javas promise to run everywhere which was argued to weaken MS platform.

    “.NET Framework which has since dwarfed Java.”

    Dwarfed – really? Java is towards 4 times as popular currently as say C#. And twice as popular as C# + visual basic combined.

    That said it has grown rapidly, and is a nice enough system.

    http://www.tiobe.com/index.php/content/paperinfo/tpci/index.html

  12. allan1015 says:

    Note: I am using MySQL in the following examples though none it actually happen with mysql,

    What Oracle is saying is that if you develop another interface for MySQL it has to stay under GPL.

    What Google has done is create a new interface for MySQL, licensed under Apache.

    Google’s model could be extended to creating a proprietary interface for a GPL product.

    It also extends to the claim that I can now develop and distribute proprietary applications for MySQL, since there is no Copyleft issues with the Apache interface.

    If you believe in GPL and Copyleft and all that, its just seems like you have to side WITH ORACLE and see what Google has done (GPL Laundering) as pretty BAD.

    Again, the actuall issues with Oracle/Google are about Java but the MySQL/GPL examples I think are accurate to the concept at issue.

  13. Gary, the dangerous infidel says:

    I’m inclined to side with Oracle in what’s at the heart of their claims. The article by Florian Mueller (linked in comment #11 above) is long enough that merely semi-interested readers won’t make it to the end, but one of his more convincing points is the sheer volume of Google’s copying of the Java APIs. Google copied the names of 37 packages, 458 classes, 158 interfaces, 2,427 methods, 893 fields, and other elements. My own theory about why Google copied so much of the API structure and design has nothing to do with marketplace interoperability or the end user. Instead, they did it for the purpose of making it much easier for smartphone makers and program developers to abandon Java, Oracle, and license fees and instead port their existing programming to Android, which conveniently contains huge amounts of identical-to-Java API names, structures, and functionality.

    Oracle makes a few especially compelling points:

    “The choice of what to include in the APIs and how to arrange them requires creativity and skill. The 37 APIs contain thousands of different elements, arranged in a unique structure, with many interdependent relationships. They readily meet the standard for copyright protection.
    […]
    They are not just a list of names and methods, but an extraordinarily complex structure of hierarchy and interdependency.
    […]
    A claim of copyright infringement can be based on infringement of a combination of unprotected elements.”

    I remember reading an article by Florian Mueller nearly a decade ago where he argued strongly against software patents, favoring copyright protection of software instead. His position in this case seems consistent with those long-held views.

  14. foobar says:

    This court case has very little to do with Java or MySQL. It’s about Google selling their wares to enterprise customers.

  15. allan1015 says:

    #38 said: “Just the opposite. Oracle is saying that if you make an interface to talk to MySQL, Oracle can own it/kill it/have rights to it.”

    Incorrect. In this case Oracle is effectively saying is the MySQL API is copyrightable, is copyrighted under GPL and any new interface to MySQL must be under GPL as well. A VERY GOOD thing.

    Google is saying the API isnt copyrightable and hence they can create a new interface to MySQL that is under THIER LICENSE, that THEY own, that THEY have rights to etc.

    The Oracle bashing here is simplistic at best.

  16. Thomas says:

    #41
    What makes you think MS wanted to drive all its products with Java?

    MS absolutely wanted to use the Java technology to build its products. They had begun to build extensions in that every direction.

    There was plenty of reasons for them to do so – if not just strategically to break Javas promise to run everywhere which was argued to weaken MS platform.

    I don’t doubt that was *also* a reason. At the end of the day, Microsoft rightly determined it was better to build something better than Java and let Sun go on their Quixote quest. That quest eventually got Sun bought by Oracle.

    Dwarfed – really?

    First, I don’t see C++.Net separated from C++ on that list nor VB separated from VB.NET. Second, C#, VB.Net, and F# are all .NET framework. Third, I have no idea how TIOBE gets its data. By shear number of lines in the wild, COBOL should at least be on the list. I base my assessment on who I talk to in the industry and sites like Stackoverflow where C# alone has 50K more questions than Java. Keep in mind that .NET is five years younger than Java and Java had the head start.

  17. Thomas says:

    #45
    In this case Oracle is effectively saying is the MySQL API is copyrightable, is copyrighted under GPL and any new interface to MySQL must be under GPL as well. A VERY GOOD thing.

    Disagree. If I build a driver that communicates with MySQL which is under the GPL, my driver is not also under the GPL. I’m not changing MySQL and therefore my code does not fall under the GPL. If you were able to claim copyright over my driver, then that also means no one could write programs which create Word doc files under the same logic. However, if I copy a bunch of the open source code used for the open source driver which is under the GPL, then yes, that is a copyright violation.

    A public interface is just that: public. Anyone can use it. That is different than an implementation of a public interface. If Google did not copy open source code in writing their implementation, then Google is in the right; Oracle cannot claim copyright over an interface. If Google copied Oracle’s implementation of a public interface, then that is different.

  18. MikeN says:

    Why are people arguing over SQL and interfaces? It appears the dispute is that Google built a new language for Android, that copies most of Java API. So you are using the same method names and return types and inputs, the same classes etc. But they didn’t say they were using Java they called it something else.

  19. TuxPenguin says:

    Goddamn lawyers could fuck up a wet dream.

  20. Dood says:

    Whaaat !?

    So even if you wrote a layer to abstract your code from the protected API – that list of defines or declarations would be infringing.

    Easy to police, hard to justify.

    Until now, I had a skerrick of respect for Larry Ellison – it’s geting samller.

  21. Glenn E. says:

    This idea will create more jobs… but only in the legal profession. Aka copyright law litigation. While the rest of us have to start paying out of pocket, for every little bit of code that we might run on a computer. Because Oracle wants to own it, or sell it, as an unclaimed property. Apparently these big corporations aren’t making enough money with their own properties, they have to raid Public Domain, and free use areas.

    Well maybe we should charge Oracle for the use and protections of, the US Constitution. After all Oracle isn’t a person or a human being. It’s a thing. And things ought not to have the free rights of human beings. And the bigger the thing is, the more it should have to pay to be granted any protections. And copyright laws should be opted for their most public good, not their most corporate good. Because the public are all the nation’s human beings. And corporations are a tiny few, super greedy, trolls. You can probably bet that certain GOP types will be in favor of what Oracle wants. They need the campaign money, right now.

  22. allan1015 says:

    #48 – Good Point, about the MySQL – somewhere earlier in the thread I got the impression that it was asked to simply this and MySQl had come up so I put the GPL Laundering discussion in a MySQL example.

    GPL Laundering is a part of the issue against Google that Oracle is making

    #47 If I build a driver that communicates with MySQL which is under the GPL, my driver is not also under the GPL.

    Thats your opinion of course, and since neither of is lawyers and because there is no case law on GPL Copyleft, we are both left with our opinions.

    Having been to a couple of SFLC/FSF seminars on GPL Copyleft I feel safe to say that none of those folks support your interpretation.

    Secondly, no one is claiming copyright over your product. No one is claiming they own your copyright. By using the GPL based MySQL you yourself has volunteered to follow the Copyleft requirement, you can choose to not to by simply not distributing your products.

    But yes the GPL does set requirements which control your choice of licensing of a derived work. You’re Library which is written for the GPL MySQL engine must e licensed GPL, if distributed.

  23. allan1015 says:

    #47, curious in what way has the MYSQL ‘interface’ become public? As in a standards body?

    So again, if I get your point, your saying you can:

    develop a new Mysql client, that may or may not be be compatible with the mysql documentation,

    distribute and even sell that client library under any license you choose

    I can use your new client in my Applicaitons and use the free GPL mysql server all day and never have to worry about GPL licensing cause your interface protects me from GPL issues?

    Ever see anyone actually do this?

  24. Gary, the dangerous infidel says:

    #53, pardon my butting in on a comment you addressed to someone else, but Navicat™ would be a good example of a non-GPL front-end that communicates with a MySQL database server via its public interface. Navicat isn’t drawn into the GPL licensing model because it is not considered a derivative work in any legal sense. It merely sends properly formatted commands to the database server, and reformats the response into a more useful form for the user.

  25. GregAllen says:

    Thanks, Thomas for responding.

    It makes me feel better that you guys are arguing about this. When I read the underlying articles, the issue didn’t seem as simple as Oracle wanting to end OpenSource.

    I have a vague memory of Dvorak column claiming that MS Windows has a whole bunch of “stolen” GPL code in it, in violation of the share-alike license. (or whatever it is called.) Maybe somebody remembers better than me.

  26. Thomas says:

    #52
    #47 If I build a driver that communicates with MySQL which is under the GPL, my driver is not also under the GPL.
    Thats your opinion of course, and since neither of is lawyers and because there is no case law on GPL Copyleft, we are both left with our opinions.

    Perhaps you should ask about this exact scenario at your next seminar on the GPL. If I write code that simply makes calls against something under the GPL (but is not actually part of the GPL program), is my code also under the GPL? I bet almost everyone would say, “no” and I also bet legally the answer would be no. The reason is that I’m not actually using anything from the GPL code; I’m simply passing commands to it. Otherwise, MS could claim copyrights over any application written to run on Windows since after all the writer of the program is making calls against the Windows API. As far as I know, the courts have ruled that interfaces are not copyrightable but implementations definitely are. The GPL covers alterations to the codebase under the GPL not outside code that makes calls to it.

    By using the GPL based MySQL you yourself has volunteered to follow the Copyleft requirement, you can choose to not to by simply not distributing your products.

    Again, CopyLeft does not apply to outside code that calls to something under that requirement. It only covers alterations of the codebase under the Copyleft. Per the GNU site:

    Copyleft is a general method for making a program (or other work) free, and requiring all modified and extended versions of the program to be free as well.

    The operative words “modified and extended versions of the program”. That does not cover applications that talk to something under the Copyleft requirement.

    You’re Library which is written for the GPL MySQL engine must e licensed GPL, if distributed.

    As we know, the case against Google isn’t about MySQL, however, one could easily use the GPL license to distribute GPL software such that it conforms to the GPL requirements but the proprietary custom drivers which talk to the interface is not part of the GPL license. Only changes to the original applications count under GPL or Copyleft.

  27. Thomas says:

    #53
    develop a new Mysql client, that may or may not be be compatible with the mysql documentation,
    distribute and even sell that client library under any license you choose
    I can use your new client in my Applicaitons and use the free GPL mysql server all day and never have to worry about GPL licensing cause your interface protects me from GPL issues?
    Ever see anyone actually do this?

    Yep. That is exactly right. First, there are companies that have made interfaces into MySQL that are proprietary. Any database management UI that can manage MySQL databases would be an example as mentioned by Gary in #54. Writing code that makes calls to something that is under copyright is not a copyright infringement nor can the owner of the copyright software make claims against the owner of the code making the calls. Thus, public interfaces are not considered copyrightable. However, copying the implementation of something under the GPL would definitely be considered a copyright infringement.

  28. Thomas says:

    In reading through the GPL licensing, a key factor in whether something is covered under the GPL is “closeness”. Specifically, is the new code in question considered part of the original program or a separate program? Thus, a custom device driver probably would be considered part of the original program and covered under GPL contrary to what I said earlier. Simply making calls to a public API (meaning the function calls are public) likely would not. As always, it depends on lawyers hashing out details.

  29. C11m says:

    @Thomas who said “So, MS dumped the idea of using Java entirely and built the .NET Framework which has since dwarfed Java.”

    Yeah, right.

    http://www.tiobe.com/index.php/content/paperinfo/tpci/index.html

  30. Anonymous says:

    Open source sucks because Real innovation requires completely unverified claims that are not even close to being empirically validated.

    This is why I hate blog comments. People say things without citation, without back up and expect to take what they say as truth.

    Show me the evidence.


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