Google, Oracle epic copyright lawsuit 10-year API battle opens next week

The latest case, which has been a long time coming, has been turned over by everyone because of the near-trial. That’s the Oracle and Google API infringement battle. The case began in 2009 when Oracle paid $7.4 billion for The Java-invented Sun Microsystems. The following year Oracle filed a lawsuit against Google on the grounds that Android illegally copied 11,000 lines of code and infringed the Java copyright patent.

Google, of course, won’t. So over the past decade, the two companies have taken turns to appeal, from federal court in San Francisco, to the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals to the Supreme Court.

From Google’s point of view, experienced the first trial victory, the second trial lost, the Supreme Court refused to hear, the retrial won the case, the retrial lost the case. The latest news is that the Supreme Court plans to re-examine it around March 24.

The lawsuit has also been hotly debated on the Internet and in the media. Recently,media arstechnica reported that Oracle’s origin history is in fact a history of plagiarism, by copying IBM’s SQL made a fortune. An Oracle spokesman responded that there was no such thing.

So, what kind of story does this have?

Ten-year litigation, rotating appeals

This epic copyright lawsuit is not just because the parties have taken a long time and experience – several similar copyright cases have gone in the past, could cost Google billions of dollars, and it could have a huge impact on the entire software industry, Google warned the U.S. Supreme Court. Oracle has the potential to become a monopoly.

A brief review of the litigation history:

In 2010, Oracle sued Google for infringing seven Java-related patents and copyrights, seeking damages of billions of dollars.

In May 2012, a judge in the Federal Court of San Francisco, or the Northern District Court of California, ruled that the Java API was not protected by copyright and that anyone could use it for free;

In 2014, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit overturned a partial first-instance ruling, saying copyright protection of the software must be respected.

Google appealed, and in June 2015, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear Google’s appeal. The lawsuit returned to federal court in San Francisco, where it heard Google’s other “fair use” argument.

In May 2016, a federal court in San Francisco reviewed the decision that Google acted reasonably and waived copyright damages.

Oracle appealed, and in March 2018, an appeals court again ruled again that Google had infringed, and Oracle demanded $8.8 billion in damages.

In November 2019, the U.S. Supreme Court accepted Google’s appeal, which will review the previous ruling, following the filing of 78 computer scientists.

You may also have noticed that the federal and appellate courts in San Francisco, respectively, have been steadfast in their staunch support for Google and Oracle over a decade, which is why this tug-of-war has lasted so long.

Oracle’s lawsuit isn’t about Google copying the Java language, it’s using lines and copying 37 Java API segments that belong to Oracle without protocol. So the lengthy lawsuit focuses on whether the API is also protected by copyright law, or to what extent it is protected by copyright.

In particular, Google has rightly stated that it has done nothing wrong because copyright protection does not include “systems” and “methods of doing things”. Google believes that the Java aspects it copied – function names, parameter types, etc. – are fully in line with these exceptions, and that the principle of rational use of copyright allows for such replication. Google copied 37 packages, 616 object classes, and 6,088 functions from the Java API, according to federal court records in California.

The protection boundaries of computer software have always been a difficult problem to determine. At first, most countries did not approve of copyright law protection procedures, and the United States was the first promoter, and under intense political and economic pressure, countries gradually accepted the requirement that the procedure should be protected as a work. Computer programs are divided into source programs and target programs. The API is somewhere between the source and the target program.

Regarding the question that APIs should not be protected, the netizen @ozzee said, “Just as you can’t copyright a dictionary, you can’t copyright the API.” What would you think if I owned the copyright to all English words and I asked you to use my paper, air and equipment to say them? By giving the API copyright, a developer is bound by the API vendor. “

The software industry is very concerned about this lawsuit, many companies are on Google’s side. Microsoft and IBM have warned that Oracle’s approach could cause chaos in the industry. If the copy is a violation, it will not only cause legal trouble for many software companies, but also disadvantage customers. APIs are widely present in the software industry, which allows competing software products to interoperate, which means that customers are less expensive to switch and software start-ups have lower entry barriers because it is easier to sell if a new product is compatible with software products that customers already know and use.

In January, Google filed a legal document brief called “friend of the court”, in which Mozilla, Media, Cloudera, Reddit and others joined the call for federal courts to allow the API to remain protected from copyright, or for its fair use.

Is Oracle right?

Oracle may have to clean up its dark history before suing Google for copying Java. Media arstechnica reported that Oracle’s origin history is actually a history of plagiarism, by copying IBM’s SQL made a fortune. If true, these histories are undoubtedly contradictory to its current API copyright position and are not conducive to winning the case.

Software companies have been copying their rival APIs. If anyone should understand the importance of this replication, it must be Oracle. Oracle’s first product, which began selling in the 1970s, was a database based on the new SQL of the time. SQL was invented by IBM, and Oracle does not seem to have the license to use it.

Ironically, if Oracle wins this legal battle, which stifles itself 40 years ago, future start-ups will not be able to use interoperability as a selling point, as Oracle did 40 years ago.

According to arstechnica, Oracle’s copy of SQL is very similar to Google’s copy of Java. Why do you say that?

The language of SQL looks like this: “select customer_name, ship_date from orders where product_id s17 and state s’CA.”

As you can see from above, first, SQL has a simple, English-like syntax. People without a background in programming or database management can get an overview of what it does by reading this statement. Second, SQL is a complaint programming language: users specify what information they are looking for, but they let the database system decide how to find it. In other words, SQL is a non-programmer-friendly language, and with a little practice, you can write SQL queries to accomplish a series of tasks.

In 1974, a small group of IBM researchers implemented these ideas in a software package called System R. At the same time, IBM researchers published research papers describing the work. These publications are very detailed and include complete SQL language specifications. System R was made, but only within IBM for the next few years. It was not until the early 1980s that IBM provided a SQL-based commercial database.

Google, Oracle epic copyright lawsuit 10-year API battle opens next week

Larry Ellison

Around 1977, Larry Ellison and his co-founders discovered the SQL language, and they started a software consulting firm called Software Development Laboratories and then wanted to transition to a database sales company. Larry Ellison realized that if the Oracle database were fully compatible with IBM’s SQL standards, the credibility would be higher.

Sql’s designer, Donald Chamberlin, gave an interview in 1995 in which Larry Ellison called him in 1978 to learn more about IBM’s development of SQL, including error code values. Chamberlin himself was happy to share it, but his boss rejected the idea, saying the error code was confidential.

But because IBM’s white paper showed enough detail to clone IBM’s database technology, Oracle released its first version of the database in 1979. At the time, the company repeatedly touted the product as originating at IBM. “Oracle’s user interface is SQL, ” says an early Oracle propagandist.

Because it went public two years ahead of IBM, Oracle became a big name and remains a leader in SQL databases for years to come.

Later, within System R, it was discussed within System R whether IBM’s disclosure of the details of SQL was a mistake, which allowed Oracle to eat up many of the market share that should belong to IBM. But some insiders believe that it was only after the publication of the research paper that IBM realized that the technology was important, so it took it seriously from the start.

“If we don’t publish those papers, it will fail,” says Mike Blasgen, a veteran of IBM in 1995. “IBM will probably ignore it. “

Oracle has never seemed to be trying to get SQL licenses from IBM, and it seems that Oracle does n’ upright.

Google and Java Past

Google, however, has tried to establish an licensing relationship with Sun. In August 2005, Google made a low-key acquisition of Android and began developing a mobile operating system, the same year Google approached Sun Microsystems to discuss a licensing agreement and reached a temporary agreement that Google paid Sun $28 million (say $40 million) to obtain a Java-related patent. Authorization for the use of Java trademarks and other assets. In addition, Google insists that it has never tried to obtain the copyright to the Java interface, which, in their view, is not required by law.

But the deal quickly broke down, and Google later said the main reason was not price, but sun’s control over the development of android platforms was greater than Google wanted. As a result, Google decided to build its own version of Java without Sun’s permission.

This means that Google starts with the functional specifications of the Java language, which are the rules of the Java language, including keywords, syntax, and the names and parameter types of standard functions. Instead of copying the code for these features like Oracle copying SQL, Google instead wrote its own code from scratch and produced the same results as Sun’s Java code.

When Google later announced that Android was based on the Java language, Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz was pleased, saying publicly, “I just want to join other colleagues in congratulating Google on its new Java/Linux mobile platform, Android.” “

It may have been a power gap, in short, Sun didn’t have Google’s troubles at the time, and when the company was acquired by Oracle in 2009, it immediately took a turn for the worse. In January 2010, the Sun deal ended, and Oracle sued Google shortly after. It is worth noting that a number of former Sun executives left Oracle after January of that year, including former Sun CEO Jonathan Schwartz, XML inventor Tim Bray, former Sun CTO James Gosling, and Tim Bray Joined the Google Android development team.

There’s a big difference from Google and IBM replication: Google copied Sun’s products, Oracle copied an IBM product that hasn’t been released, and IBM’s white paper.

James Grimmelmann, a law professor at Cornell Tech, said in an interview in January that there was not much difference from a copyright perspective. If the copy API is copyright infringing, copying the API from the document is also copyright infringement. IBM’s papers are “protected works” under copyright law. “If the SQL specification is copyrighted, then copyright applies whether copied from software or white paper.

Oracle’s long-standing lawsuit is that Google copied Oracle’s API. Perhaps in their perspective, their own copy of SQL is different from Google’s copy of Java.

In fact, in 1979, IBM’s SQL did not have a large library of support features for Oracle to replicate. Therefore, Oracle this set of “language replication” can, “API copy” does not work with the theory is also in line with their position.

But Grimmelmann argues that there is no point in treating programming languages and APIs legally differently. “SQL is essentially a common database API with nine core verbs, parameters, and some formatting and syntax. “

It is not clear how copyright law distinguishes between core languages and APIs. For example, when performing an addition operation, Java might require the user to call such an API function: “n s sum (a,b); ” instead of “n s a s b;”” If copyright law is to protect the former, the latter symbol “plus” should also be protected.

Fundamentally, an API is a language in which computer programs communicate with each other, and a language like SQL or Java can be said to be an API. Mature computer languages tend to have more complex syntax rules than other APIs. But many of the underlying copyright elements — keywords, parameter types, syntax rules — are similar. If the function name in the API can be copyrighted, then keywords in the computer language also appear to be copyrighted, including SQL keywords such as “select,” “from,” and “where.”

In addition, in an effort to reduce the copyright impact, Google abandoned private SunJDK in 2016 in turn to open source OpenJDK, and at the 2017 I/O conference, Google announced that Kotlin had replaced Java as the Android-first-level development language. Two years later, Google said that more than 50 percent of professional Android developers now use the language to develop their applications, and in the latest Stack Overflow developer survey, it is ranked as the fourth most popular programming language.

One-sided criticism of Oracle

Oracle does not agree with the outside world about its plagiarism, saying, “It is an incorrect assumption to compare apples and broccoli together, completely out of touch with the facts.” “

Google, Oracle epic copyright lawsuit 10-year API battle opens next week

Before that, Executive Vice President Ken Glueck posted a blog on his website titled “Don’t Care About the People Behind the Scenes”, with sharp words and blasts of Google and its supporters, “pretending to be a massive lying, but behind it it may be a deal of interest.” “

“It’s not about innovation, it’s about theft. In the software industry, it is not common to steal software code from other developers, and some copying is also a copyright owner working together for mutual benefit, and Java is not refusing to choose, but licensing in the hands of the copyright owner, ” says Glueck.

“Google is trying to get the support of outside groups to get other companies on the friend of the court briefing, creating a case that is significant and controversial, and that VW Oracle’s appeal hinders the impression of innovation.” “

In addition, he referred to 26 briefings submitted by Google, seven of which were rated by entities that received “substantial contributions” from Google, and grants, payables, and approximate settlement gains between the agencies or individuals behind the eight briefings and Google.¬†settlement or employment relationships; two briefing entities with Google with obvious business dealings; one by several former U.S. government employees who worked for a small government agency run by former Google executives… These groups include the American Library Association, the EFF and Python Software Foundation, and 83 computer scientists, including Doug Lea, a former member of the Java Executive Committee.

“With the exception of Microsoft and IBM, 98 other companies in the top 100 technology companies have not submitted any briefings. “

As soon as this article appeared, Joshua Bloch, a former Sun employee and now Google’s chief Java architect, sat down and replied on Twitter: It’s useless to pour dirty water on Doug Lea, who received a small grant from Google 14 years ago but immediately gave it to those involved in Java. Outstanding undergraduate stake in program testing. “Oracle, don’t you be ashamed?” “

While developers don’t necessarily agree with Google, the attitude toward Oracle is largely the same – strong opposition.

One developer said Oracle did not seem to have been fair to the submitter who forgot or didn’t know the briefing. In fact, the acceptance of the briefing depends on whether the submitter gives a reasonable reason. Some of the briefs were purely academic, and they were telling the court how they would be affected by the sentence. “

Most people think the idea of copying APIs is absurd, and if Oracle wins, the way software interacts will change forever, “Oracle may reap a lot of royalties by exploiting other developers and companies”, but in the long run, it will also have an impact on java’s application and ecology:

“Larry destroyed the trust that Java is an open platform. “

“If there’s anyone in the interest of Java, it’s Oracle. After this lawsuit, people think twice before choosing Java. API copyright protection will be a new low in IP history. “

Prior to the 2010 lawsuit, API’s non-copyright protection was an industry underrulent rule. But if Oracle wins, it will open Pandora’s Box. Perhaps the court may eventually rule that API copyright extends to the core characteristics of the programming language, or they may find a law to distinguish between common API and programming language copyrights. But in any case, there is a lot of uncertainty. The gray area is clear, requiring years of litigation and millions of dollars in legal costs.

Google has two possible ways to win, the first being what most people expect, and the court ruled that the API could not be copyrighted. Second, the Supreme Court could consider that API copyrights should be specifically analyzed, and that Google’s replication is within reasonable use. That would save Google from writing a 10-figure check to Oracle, but could still drag the software industry into legal trouble.

Rational use, how to see the subjective standard of wisdom ah. Reporting such behavior may increase, and most companies do not have Google’s accumulated and legal resources to spend legal action, so the future is not optimistic.