More Tech Companies Come Out to Support Google In API Case

There’s been additional developments in the Google v Oracle case. More tech companies are coming out to support Google in the case.

The long and winding road of the Google v Oracle case is continuing. Last week, we noted that Google urged the Supreme court to overturn an earlier court ruling which ruled that Oracle can claim copyright over an API (Application Programming Interface). The ruling sent shockwaves across the technology sector as many worried that such a ruling would require a rethinking of how technology is built.

This week, the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) came out to support Google in the case by saying that APIs cannot be copyrighted. They further argued that the lower court ruling sets a dangerous precedent.

So, for some journalists out there, they were attributing how dangerous the precedence would be to simply what Google is arguing. It’s unclear if the EFF coming to Google’s defence would change very many minds. So, if the EFF comments weren’t enough, what about how the rest of the technology sector. How do they feel about the ruling. In an article on ZDNet, it seems that they aren’t exactly thrilled with this ruling either. From ZDNet:

Submitting a joint “friend of the court” brief on Monday — a legal document that offers information that has a bearing on the issues of a court case — Mozilla, Medium, Cloudera, Reddit, along with others, have pleaded for SCOTUS to reverse the Federal Court’s decision and allow for APIs to continue to be free from copyright, or at least be available for fair use.

In the brief, the organisations argued that the Federal Circuit’s decision stifles innovation and competition by “privileging powerful incumbents, creating artificial barriers to entry for new players, and deterring new software development”.

It was also argued that software interfaces are similar to online shopping websites as they generally follow a nearly identical “structure, sequence, and organisation” (SSO) which it said has become convention for software engineers.

“While a shopping site could attempt to come up with a totally new format for requesting billing and shipping data, common sense, technological standardisation, and economic efficiency have driven the industry to adopt an almost ubiquitous SSO that every user expects, understands, and completes with ease,” the brief said.

Mozilla and Reddit are for sure pretty heavy hitters in the technology sector. Of course, as the article suggests, they aren’t the only ones. In a separate article, Microsoft and IBM are also backing Google. From ZDNet:

“Computer interfaces are not copyrightable. That simple, yet powerful principle has been a cornerstone of technological and economic growth for over 60 years,” IBM opens up in its filing.

“Not once, until this case, has a Court of Appeals held that software interfaces are protected by copyright separate and apart from the code embodying the implementation of those interfaces. This is not because this principle is fringe; it is because it has always been accepted – based on legal precedent dating back 140 years.”

Microsoft said the Court of Appeals decision “takes an unduly narrow view of fair use that elevates functional code to the same level of copyright protection as the creative expression in a novel”.

Microsoft added that the court also applied a “problematically narrow standard” for evaluating ‘transformative use’ of functional code.

“While Google used the software interfaces at issue for the same purpose as in Oracle’s Java platform – allowing a program to invoke computer functionalities – it incorporated them into a completely different platform that opened new possibilities for programmers and consumers,” wrote Microsoft.

The company argues that open APIs are critical to interoperable systems, spanning documents, Internet browsers, the cloud, the Internet of Things, and smart home products. It explains the implications of companies being able to copyright APIs in a way that non-technical judges may easily understand.

“If, as in computing’s early days, every device had its own proprietary interface, one could never add a product outside a particular vendor’s offerings to the system. But in today’s interoperable ecosystem, consumers generally can choose smart products based on their merits and functionality, without worrying about compatibility with their existing system,” wrote Microsoft.

So, if there was any suggestion that the arguments saying that it’s just Google saying how this ruling will hurt innovation, those doubts should be completely erased now. It’s simply telling how much other members in the technology sector are reacting to all of this (and taking Google’s side in this matter on top of it all).

At this point, we are waiting to see if the Supreme court will hear the case. Most in the tech sector are obviously hoping that they will, at least, hear the case. Ideally, if they do hear the case, it will overturn the lower court case. It’ll likely cause the case to continue for even longer, but at the very least, that will change the momentum away from Oracle for the time being. At least, that is how things stand at this point.

Drew Wilson on Twitter: @icecube85 and Facebook.

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