APIs are the glue that connects the online world. The battle between Oracle and Google over the use of Java APIs in Android threatened to make using APIs to leverage applications and services a much more complex and possibly cumbersome process. The verdict this week establishes a wide scope for “fair use” when it comes to APIs, and represents a victory for developers in general.
Google has prevailed in the copyright infringement case brought by Oracle over Google’s use of Java in Android. Had the verdict gone the other way, it could have cost Google as much as $9 billion. Oracle will appeal the decision, but if it stands it sets a lofty precedent for fair use.
“The ruling certainly sets a high bar for creativity before deserving protection from fair use,” declares Al Hilwa, program director of software development research for IDC. “In this sense, developers will broadly view this as a relief from the burden of copyrights in crafting or copying APIs to a certain degree.”
The crux of Google’s defense was that Sun—which created Java and was subsequently acquired by Oracle—intended for Java to be free for anyone to use. It was developed as an open source platform with the intention that it would offer common code that can be leveraged across operating systems and platforms.
An earlier decision in this case ruled that APIs are protected under U.S. copyright law. That decision rattled developers and threatened the foundation of how programs and services integrate and work together. Developers would face additional hurdles and possible licensing fees to use APIs, which have been widely considered to be more or less public domain.
Following that earlier verdict—which sent this case base to the District Court in San Francisco to determine whether Google’s use of the APIs falls under fair use or not—Google stated, “We’re disappointed by this ruling, which sets a damaging precedent for computer science and software development, and are considering our options.”
The decision this week is a huge win for Google—and for developers in general. The battle between Oracle and Google has had the net effect of establishing that APIs are protected by copyright, but that the scope of what is deemed “fair use” is fairly liberal. In essence, developers can still use APIs freely in most situations based on the legal precedent so far.
Read the full story on Forbes: Oracle Judgment Sets High Bar For Fair Use.