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. legendinmyownmind. says:

    Oracle can pound sand.

  2. dusanmal says:

    Not communism but consequence of empty (mainly Apple)-heads accepting unacceptable TOS, license agreements and such. You give those documents practical power beyond anything ever envisioned and you get this result…

  3. Zylun says:

    Interesting how with intellectual property/technology, structures in place intended to foster innovation (copyright, patent, etc.) can now stifle it. Nice propaganda poster 🙂

  4. interglacial says:

    The law seems to be idiotic enough that I can see the courts agreeing to this. But even if this does come to pass, what’s the problem? I can’t see anything to stop anyone taking the mySQL code and refactoring every function name – virtually every word or phrase in English has a synonym and changing code like this can be scripted. Sure it would be a pain in the ass but once the code was forked people could move on and tell Oracle to STFU.

  5. Ah_Yea says:

    The courts agreeing to this is never going to happen.

    Using rational thought brings us to realize that the court would have to overturn decades of legal precedent.

    One specific example is Microsoft having to open up it’s API’s to 3rd party developers.

    Remember that, anyone? Microsoft having to pay billions of dollars in fines for not having open API’s?

    Sorry, Oracle. Not gonna happen.

  6. foobar says:

    I’m going to patent “select * from”

  7. Thomas says:

    And thus came .NET. Microsoft ran up against the same issue as Google in the mid-90’s. 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.

  8. jdmurray says:

    If song titles can’t be copyrighted because they contain too little information, how can program and function names be copyrighted?


  9. jimmyr says:

    > In essence, all software would become proprietary, to the copyright holder, which could absolutely control everything done in its name

    So what keeps the copyright holder from using his absolute control to say “Everybody can use this”?

  10. Buzz Mega says:

    Once again the terrorists at Oracle, win!

  11. aslightlycrankygeek says:

    Please read the original article that the post article is referencing, and apparently having trouble understanding. Now compare that detailed, well-informed post (from a blog specifically devoted to software patents) to the knee-jerk reaction from Seeking Alpha, an investing site. The original article was mostly in favor of Oracle here, showing Google to be hypocrites in how they are trying to defend ripped-off code, he calls “GPL Laundering”.

    A few key points – Google is claiming that “that free-of-charge software should be allowed to infringe patents contributorily”. This goes beyond open source software. Essentially they are saying you can steal someone else’s code if you are giving it away for free.

    Google’s summary judgment motion asks the court to throw out Oracle’s copyright infringement allegations because they relate to APIs.

    Oracle’s brief contains passages that expose Google as hypocritical and reckless, but without saying so directly.

    Oracle notes that “Google, in fact, claims copyright protection for its own APIs” and points to various Google APIs terms of use, including those for the AdSense API

  12. aslightlycrankygeek says:

    By the way, many companies charge thousands of dollars just for a license to have access to their APIs. Why would someone ever pay for a license to an API if they were not even considered proprietary??

  13. The game is over boys
    life has changed – you have prospered so get with life rather than trying to gouge us

  14. deowll says:

    Suggestion; don’t buy or use oracle products.

  15. foobar says:

    deowll, dead right.

    And if you’re still on MySQL, that ship has sailed as well.

  16. ReadyKilowatt says:

    When I was a kid I thought it would be really cool to have a pocket device that could recall all the world’s information. If I’d have known at the time how easy it was I would have filed a patent.

    I wouldn’t ask for much, just a penny from every handset sold.

  17. bobbo, how do you know what you know and how do you change your mind says:

    #11–cranky==most excellent summary.


  18. B. Dog says:

    Get rid of software patents. Do it today. Just for good measure let the robot pen sign it into law.

  19. jescott418 says:

    I have always thought of Open Source as being a project open to individuals and not for companies to take it and make it their own for profit. But that is exactly what Google has done with Open Source. It decided it could make a profitable product from someone else’s spare time polishing code. Then Google could customize it and call it something else. To me Open source should remain that way. As open in final retail product as it is in things like Ubuntu. But of course Google is not the only company using open source for profit. Its just the one getting the focus.

  20. Cap'nKangaroo says:

    Larry needs a bigger boat.

  21. MikeN says:

    Google is busy trying to make money from others and packaging it in ways that they can get the government to help them, using terms like net neutrality.

    They copy every book in existence, with or without the publisher’s permission, and sell ads. If you don’t like it they won’t sell ads on your books, but just having your book makes their site more valuable.

  22. Troublemaker says:

    Well, it helps you if you are pro capitalist. It will help make the guys at the top even richer yet. Which, after all, is the ultimate goal of capitalism.

  23. What? says:

    STEVE JOBS resigned today.

    Let the Google start the global assimilation.

  24. GregAllen says:

    Could someone give me the “Idiots” version of this story?

    I don’t get the legal logic behind it, let along the merits of it.

    MySQL is General Public License. But if I write a proprietary interface for MySQL, I can then claim to own MySQL?

    That’s can’t possibly be what Oracle is claiming. I don’t get it.

  25. GregAllen says:

    I just read the fosspatents link and, obviously, my speculation was way off.

    But I still don’t get the issue. Can anyone help?

  26. Thomas says:

    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.

  27. Thomas says:

    Software patents aren’t the issue here and even if they were, they only last 17 years. Copyrights, which are at issue here, last 100 years (thanks Disney).

  28. cgp says:

    Open source is great when there are suckers out there who are begging for work. Great when corporations can devote resources to shared work.

    But there is a very real downside where all this diminishes the value of software engineering effort. More investigation of the negative side needs to done and reported upon.

    Real innovation requires small team size (best size is two) and that requires funding. Open source just allows for picky advances, maintenance etc.

  29. cgp says:

    # 19 open source is best when the licenses are the least restrictive, meaning the corporations can feed off the suckers. Hell it is even better than the $1 hour indian outsourcing rates.

  30. Thomas says:

    Open Source != Free. Open Source simply means that when you release the product, you also release the source code. It is possible to have a proprietary piece of software that is open source. Just because you can see the code does not mean you can use it license free or distribute it in any way you see fit.

    The problem in this case, to which I can’t seem to get a straight answer, is whether we are literally talking about interfaces or are we talking about method bodies.

    For those that do not know, the simplest explanation for an interface is that it is just a set of method signatures. For example, if were using object-oriented design, an interface for say an Animal class might include functions like Run(), Bark() and Crap(). Each instance of Animal object like a Dog or Cat, might implement those methods differently. That you implement your own code that supports those methods is not even remotely the same as copying the original author’s implementation of those functions. In object-oriented design, it is also possible to write something that literally uses everything in the original class but simply expands on it. Again, whether that’s copyrightable is questionable. However, if what Google did was to literally copy the entire implementation of something that was open source and distribute it freely claiming that they can do this because they did not charge for it, is legally laughable. If Oracle is claiming that Google created a copy of Java that implements all the same interfaces (but the actual implementation was not directly copied from the original), then Oracle is also smoking something.


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