Thursday 3 May 2012

Google vs. Oracle

This case threatens to ruin the software business as we know it. In brief, Oracle has taken the position that Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) can be patented. Should the court decide in Oracle's favour, then numerous companies are liable for infringement, and this has very little to do with the war between Google and Oracle.

It's time to pause and take a deep breath here, and to realize what is at stake. The first contention, already dismissed, is that programming languages cannot be patented or copyrighted. Let us assume that this one is filed in history and is cannot be reversed. Let's move on to the next chapter in this sordid adventure.

First of all, let us observe only the specifics: this case is about Java APIs, and the back story is that Oracle acquired Sun and therefore decided to play hardball with not only Google (however, that is the firm with deep pockets), but every other firm that uses Java APIs.

Suppose that APIs can be patented or at least copyrighted. To name just a few potential victims of this supposition, here is a short list, which I am sure is way longer:


Now where do I come in, as a high-level developer incapable of writing a programming language? I use APIs all the time, about 90% from Microsoft but a few from the languages previously mentioned, on the Linux platform. I write apps for clients and they are relatively happy with them, but how the heck can I be expected to pay for using APIs? 

There has to be a middle place here; I'm not sure where it is, but let's suppose that it lies in changing all the class and method names very slightly, and I guess we should also change all the variable names, just to be safe. Now that I think about this, I guess this could also be done with a smart text editor. And what have we accomplished by doing this? Nothing. But if that steers us clear of the lawyers. 


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