Skip to main content

Computer Scientists Urge Court to Block Copyright Claims in Oracle v. Google API Fight

Dozens of Industry Leaders Argue APIs That Are Open Are Critical to Innovation, Interoperability
PRESS RELEASE
May 30, 2013
Dozens of Industry Leaders Argue APIs That Are Open Are Critical to Innovation, Interoperability

San Francisco - Dozens of computer scientists urged an appeals court today to block the copyright claims over application programming interfaces (APIs) in the Oracle v. Google court battle, arguing that APIs that are open are critical to innovation and interoperability in computers and computer systems.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) represents the 32 scientists – including leaders like MS-DOS author Tim Paterson and ARPANET developer Larry Roberts – in the amicus brief filed in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit today. The group urges the court to uphold a decision from U.S. District Judge William Alsup finding that APIs are not copyrightable, explaining that Oracle's attempt to over-extend copyright coverage in its case against Google was irreconcilable with the purpose of copyright law and the nature of computer science.

"The law is already clear that computer languages are mediums of communication and aren't copyrightable. Even though copyright might cover what was creatively written in the language, it doesn't cover functions that must all be written in the same way," said EFF Staff Attorney Julie Samuels. "APIs are similarly functional – they are specifications allowing programs to communicate with each other. As Judge Alsup found, under the law APIs are simply not copyrightable material."

Furthermore, as the scientists explain in today's brief, the real-world ramifications of copyrighting APIs would be severe. All software developers use APIs to make their software work with other software. For example, your Web browser uses APIs to work with various computer operating systems so it can open files and display windows on the screen. If APIs are copyrightable, then developers can control who can make interoperable software, blocking competitors and creative new products.

"Without the compatibility enabled by APIs that are open, we would not have the vibrant computer and Internet environment we experience today, with new products and services routinely changing the way we see and interact with the world," said EFF Fellow Michael Barclay. "APIs that are open spur the development of software, creating programs that the interface's original creator might never have envisioned. We hope the appeals court rejects Oracle's appeal in this case to protect technological innovation."

For the full amicus brief:
https://www.eff.org/node/74381

For the full list of signatories:
https://www.eff.org/cases/oracle-v-google/amici

Contacts:

Julie Samuels
   Staff Attorney
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   julie@eff.org

Michael Barclay
   Fellow
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   michael@eff.org

JavaScript license information