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Jury Rules Google Violated Java Copyright, Google Moves For Mistrial 475

Posted by Soulskill
from the opening-a-big-can-of-worms dept.
eldavojohn writes "Details are thin, but the long-covered Oracle v. Google trial has at least partially been decided in favor of Oracle. The jury says Google violated copyrights with Android when it used Java APIs to design the system. Google moved for a mistrial after hearing the incomplete decision. The patent infringement accusations have yet to be ruled upon."
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Jury Rules Google Violated Java Copyright, Google Moves For Mistrial

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  • by niado (1650369) on Monday May 07, 2012 @04:02PM (#39919015)
    Does the judge now have to rule on whether API's can be copyrighted?
    • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 07, 2012 @04:04PM (#39919087)

      Yes.

    • by DragonWriter (970822) on Monday May 07, 2012 @04:26PM (#39919333)

      Does the judge now have to rule on whether API's can be copyrighted?

      It certainly seems like the judge has to rule on whether the copyright on the Java source files extends to protect the "structure, sequence, and organization" in the way being referred to as "API's being copyrighted". But its also win-win for Google.

      If they can be copyrighted, the jury is hung on an issue critical to the resolution of Google's liability, which is grounds for a mistrial, and Oracle has to start all over on the copyright claims if it wants to do anything with them.

      If they can't be copyrighted, the Google's in the clear.

    • by erroneus (253617)

      Of course. The judge pretty much had that in mind all along. It has been established over and over again that APIs cannot be copyrighted as interoperability and compatibility are needed for fair use and other things.

      The judge carefully selected questions which separated actual copyright infringement from Oracle's claims of API infringement so that the Jury could rule on the claims separately.

      Mistrial? Well, we'll see... I think the judge should just overrule the Jury as a matter of law. "It's not covere

    • by baileydau (1037622) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @06:12AM (#39925499)

      Maybe I haven't been paying attention, but wasn't the basis of the BSD ruling that API's weren't copyrightable???

  • With the judge (Score:5, Interesting)

    by phorm (591458) on Monday May 07, 2012 @04:02PM (#39919027) Journal

    IIRC, the judge instructed to have the jury come to their decision based on the concept that the material in question could be copyrighted. The judge still has the final says as to whether the material *CAN* be copyrighted. That's still a big if for this case, so it's not over yet.

    • by niado (1650369)
      This is my understanding of the situation also. IMHO this was probably the best way to go about it.
      • Re:With the judge (Score:4, Interesting)

        by gr3ggx0r (1375035) on Monday May 07, 2012 @04:07PM (#39919125)
        I completely agree. If Google had been ruled to not infringe, then there would have been no opportunity for the judge to rule whether or not APIs are copyrightable. From all indications, it seems that Alsup is inclined to rule in Google's favor on that one ....
    • Re:With the judge (Score:5, Informative)

      by elashish14 (1302231) <profcalc4@gmBLUEail.com minus berry> on Monday May 07, 2012 @04:25PM (#39919323)

      Right. The EU has already decided [slashdot.org] that APIs are not copyrightable and wrote an extremely reasonable and balanced explanation as to why:

      The object of the protection conferred by Directive 91/250 is the expression in any form of a computer program, such as the source code and the object code, which permits reproduction in different computer languages. On the basis of those considerations, the Court holds that neither the functionality of a computer program nor the programming language and the format of data files used in a computer program in order to exploit certain of its functions constitute a form of expression. Accordingly, they do not enjoy copyright protection.

      To accept that the functionality of a computer program can be protected by copyright would amount to making it possible to monopolise ideas, to the detriment of technological progress and industrial development.

      So maybe there's still some hope left... otherwise we'll just have to hire lawyers to write the software of the future.

  • by rewt66 (738525) on Monday May 07, 2012 @04:03PM (#39919057)

    The jury was instructed that APIs were copyrightable. They found that Google infringed Sun/Oracle's Java API. But the judge will actually decide later whether APIs are in fact copyrightable (which question will almost certainly go to the Supreme Court before it's all over).

    So what the jury actually decided doesn't mean much. It means that Google copied the Java API. Well, yeah, we knew that already.

    • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn&gmail,com> on Monday May 07, 2012 @04:09PM (#39919139) Journal

      So what the jury actually decided doesn't mean much. It means that Google copied the Java API. Well, yeah, we knew that already.

      That's not exactly true, the jury's verdict read that what was copied was the "structure, sequence, and organization" of Java APIs. Of which, if you're up for implementing a non-standardized version of Java, you should take note.

      Disclaimer: This Ars article has grown from two lines when I submitted this to a full fledged report.

      • by msobkow (48369) on Monday May 07, 2012 @04:43PM (#39919567) Homepage Journal

        Copying the "structure, sequence, and organization" of the Java APIs is the definition of implementing an object-oriented interface, regardless of the specifics of the implementation.

        The article is also incorrect when it says Android is the "only" project/product impacted by the decision. There's this little Apache project that wrote the code Android uses, so every product or project which relies on that code is affected by this ruling. They just haven't been sued yet.

        The essence of this ruling is that publishing something under open source means nothing if the copyright holder later changes their mind. And that is the biggest blow to the software industry that could have been levelled by any company for any reason, because it affects over 75% of the systems which implement the infrastructure of the internet.

        When (not "if") this idea is propagated to the POSIX APIs, the C-library interfaces, the C++ standard libraries, and a host of other open source products and packages, the whole industry is fucked!

        • Copying the "structure, sequence, and organization" of the Java APIs is the definition of implementing an object-oriented interface, regardless of the specifics of the implementation.

          That might be true, but its somewhat irrelevant as they were found to have copied "structure, sequence, and organization" of the Java APIs, they were accused of copying the "structure, sequence, and organization" of Oracle's copyright-protected implementation of the Java APIs.

          Had the direct source of their information on the AP

        • by shutdown -p now (807394) on Monday May 07, 2012 @05:33PM (#39920283) Journal

          Copying the "structure, sequence, and organization" of the Java APIs is the definition of implementing an object-oriented interface, regardless of the specifics of the implementation.

          Sure. But jury decision is perfectly logical and reasonable if you start with the premise that APIs are copyrightable (which they were instructed by the judge to do).

          By itself, the jury decision (note: there's no ruling yet) does not have any meaning unless and until the judge actually rules that APIs are copyrightable. Logic and common sense dictate that they are not, and his interest in the recent EU decision seems to indicate that he may agree with that. If so, this would actually be better than jury decision because it would then set a precedent regarding API copyrightability, which (unless it gets appealed) would seal this issue in US once and for all.

  • by miltonw (892065) on Monday May 07, 2012 @04:04PM (#39919077)
    From Groklaw: "The judge has stated, pending judgment as a matter of law, that there is "zero finding of copyright liability" other than the 9 lines of code to which Oracle's damages report attributes no value."

    In other words, a very good day for Google, not Oracle.
    • by stephanruby (542433) on Monday May 07, 2012 @04:31PM (#39919417)

      In other words, a very good day for Google, not Oracle.

      Here is the link to the Groklaw updates about this case [groklaw.net].

      It would have been a lot slimper and less confusing if Slashdot had just linked to that in the first place.

    • by thatseattleguy (897282) on Monday May 07, 2012 @05:04PM (#39919915) Homepage
      Those following Groklaw closely through the long months of pre-trial and actual trial understand this partial verdict in a much fuller context. (Unfortunately, most of the posters here seem not to fall into that category.)

      Overall, it was a great day for Google, and Wall Street got that immediately: GOOG is up about 1.75% on the day, and ORCL down by a similar amount. So clearly the people with money on the line wouldn't agree with TFA's headline here. (Which, to be fair, is how most of the uninformed news media coverage is spinning it, so Slashdot is hardly alone in getting it wrong.

      /tsg/

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 07, 2012 @04:04PM (#39919083)

    The JUDGE said "based on the assumption that SSO's are copyrightable" make your rulings.

    In no manner are SSO's (or API's) copyrightable at this point.

    It is all to give the Jury a baseline from which to make their own decision.

    Does anybody really read these things before making up headlines, or is sensationalism the only way to get eyeballs,
    nevermind understanding?

  • Oracle (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 07, 2012 @04:05PM (#39919101)

    Check out this quote from Oracle (via Washington Post [washingtonpost.com]):

    ... Every major commercial enterprise — except Google — has a license for Java ....

    Wait, what?

  • by gral (697468) <kscarr73@[ ]il.com ['gma' in gap]> on Monday May 07, 2012 @04:11PM (#39919173) Homepage
    I can see MORE innovation going to countries that have not setup copyright along with the USA. Java being completely dead, companies like Microsoft going after everyone on US soil that "Infringed" on their API by implementing it. Apple going after.... Oracle going after...

    I guess IBM should watch out.....

    I guess the good news is that if Google puts their weight behind Python or some other language then it will actually tag along with the success that Android has already become. The better for the language whichever it happens to be. Of course, they could also just fix up their Go language as well.

    Companies can really be stupid sometimes. All in the name of protecting their "Shareholders" I guess.
    • by gutnor (872759)

      I guess the good news is that if Google puts their weight behind Python or some other language then it will actually tag along with the success that Android has already become.

      Too optimistic. There would be too much risk investing in somebody else language, so that would mean a custom Google language. There are companies today that are afraid to use opensource because somebody somewhere (in the US) could sue them, cannot imagine that would improve the feeling. (I worked in one of those - developing for anything that could be sold to the US was a real pain, we spent years re-inventing what could pass for a wheel. Competitor on the asian market were just so much faster to develop t

  • by ChicoLance (318143) <lance@orner.net> on Monday May 07, 2012 @04:31PM (#39919407)

    I'm getting very disappointed with Slashdot this past few years, and they seem to be pandering to the sensationalist. I used to come here for some real news.

    It's all over the wire about the jury deliberations, mistrial, infringements. I come to Slashdot thinking I'd get the real scoop. Nope, more of same sensational stuff.

    So, Groklaw [groklaw.net] has the real story, and it turns out, it's not much of a story at all.

    There's all sorts of sensational web sites out there. I used to come to Slashdot for the comments, which have always been rational. Now, I'm not sure why I stop by from time to time.

    • I've been reading and posting to Slashdot for over 10 years. The stories have always been sensationalist, trolling, or sometimes even deliberately deceptive. Despite that the comments nearly always put it right. If you read Slashdot, and care about understanding the many fascinating and important issues discussed, you need to read the high-modded comments too. That's always been true for as long as the site existed.
  • by DragonWriter (970822) on Monday May 07, 2012 @04:33PM (#39919443)

    Details are thin, but the long-covered Oracle v. Google trial has at least partially been decided in favor of Oracle. The jury says Google violated copyrights with Android when it used Java APIs to design the system.

    Yeah, that's not really all that much in Oracle's favor. The jury instructions all-but dictated that result (the instructions instructed the jury that the relevant legal test was "substantial similarity" and that Google had admitted substantial similarity), the key question in dispute for the jury was Google's fair use defense which had to be evaluated once the jury found that there was infringement before considering the defense. And that's the point that the jury hung on.

    Without a verdict on that point, there are two plausible outcomes for the copyright claims:

    1) As Google has already requested based on the jury impasse, a mistrial is declared and Oracle has to start the copyright case over at square one (with or without the judge reaching the legal issue on the "API copyright" issue), or
    2) The judge moves on to deciding the legal issue of copyright in favor of Google, so that the API copyright issue is dead (pending appeal--and if Oracle wins on appeal, they still go back to square one and a new trial on the facts since the jury hung.)

    So its hard to see this as any kind of a win for Oracle.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 07, 2012 @04:52PM (#39919717)

    A view with a greater understanding of the implications, Groklaw believes otherwise: "The judge has stated, pending judgment as a matter of law, that there is "zero finding of copyright liability" other than the 9 lines of code to which Oracle's damages report attributes no value. A good day for Google overall."

    Read it yourself and decide: http://www.groklaw.net/article.php?story=20120507122749740

    Judge Alsup asked both parties to answer a list of questions, following the EU High Court decision that APIs are not copyrightable expression: "1. If the Copyright Act is meant to protect expression but not vocabulary, should the vocabulary and grammar of a computer language be copyrightable, as distinct from programs written in the language? In this regard, please comment on the May 2, 2012, decision of the High Court of the European Union." The Judge will rule as a matter of law whether the SSO of the APIs are copyrightable.

    The only website that seems to always get the legal pulse right is Groklaw.

  • by StormReaver (59959) on Monday May 07, 2012 @10:53PM (#39923449)

    Oracle lost the copyright phase in its entirely, and Google won the copyright phase in its entirety. Google owes Oracle nothing in copyright damages.

    Read Groklaw, and stop looking stupid.

  • by roman_mir (125474) on Tuesday May 08, 2012 @03:19AM (#39924785) Homepage Journal

    Nullify the copyrights and patents and take this issue to the SCOTUS.

    Just look at this. [groklaw.net] This is insanity, nobody should have to be a hostage to a judge and jury and to the insane players, like Oracle, in any time in their lives. You think THIS PROMOTES INNOVATION?

    You think this promotes innovation, invention, anything that is good and positive in the world at all? All this does is it destroys. If APIs are copyrightable, if patents are everywhere, forget Java, forget smart phones, how can you have any new ideas, any new businesses, any new wealth (products, services) created?

    This is insanity, anybody supporting a system that allows this is insane, the entire society that believes this creates more innovation and invention and business and ideas is insane.

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