A Legal Blog by Aaron | Sanders, PLLC

Oracle v Google: The Jury Has Spoken, But What Did it Say?

Note: This post and those following rely on and are indebted to live-tweeting by Sarah Jeong and Mike Swift of the trial. Jeong storified the trial here. You can find Swift’s twitter feed here. I also reference the jury instructions, which you can find here.

Once a Year, Everyone Pays Attention to Copyright (and Finds Something They Don’t Like)

It’s been only a little more than a year since a jury has rendered a controversial verdict in a closely watch-ed copyright case. That case, of course, was the “Blurred Lines” case, which led much furrowing of brows and some gnashing of teeth about whether, if verdicts like this become a trend, songwriting will become too risky to pursue. While there is evidence that “Blurred Lines” really is part of a trend in music cases, songwriting is not doomed, as I explained at the time.

The jury’s recent finding of fair use in Google v. Oracle has led to some wringing of hands, knowing tut-tutting, and even some exuberance:
* All copyright in software is doomed, especially free software.
* It’s nice and all for Google, but everything is already terrible because APIs were found to be copyrightable and fair use is a poor…

The waters of Redwood Shores appear peaceful, but lurking, lurking, lurking... Photo by Hokan Dahlström http://www.dahlstroms.com

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Federal Circuit Feeds Us Some Humble Pie: Oracle v Google Reversed

Humble Pie Taste Like Sawdust but at Least it’s High in Roughage

It’s fair to say that I was a little bit invested in the district court opinion in Oracle v. Google. I really thought it was a great opinion, thought it really helped clear the air about the vexed issue of copyright protection for computer programs—and I said so, both in a published article, and in a multi-part blog post (starting here).

So when it became clear that the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals was set to reverse the decision, I had to resist getting defensive. While my Twitter feed exploded, mostly in outrage, at the actual reversal, I put off reading the decision until I could read it fairly. The Federal Circuit might have been reversed by the Supreme Court five times out of five this year, on the very subject (patents) it is supposed to be an expert on, but that doesn’t make it wrong. And just because I had publicly supported the now-reversed trial court opinion, doesn’t mean I was right.

Most of the criticism that I read had mostly to do with policy. In essence, they contended that the Federal Circuit to be legally wrong because APIs should…


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Copyright and APIs: After Oracle v. Google, Are Developers Safe?

Part I: APIs and IP

The big Oracle v. Google order holding that the Java API is not copyrightable is now about two months old, but software developers are still talking about it because APIs (“application programming interfaces”) are so crucial to what developers do. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that APIs are an integral part of the who technology ecosystem that we take for granted.

An API is a bit of software code that runs between the application you’re developing and another (usually larger) piece of software, such that your application may use one (of several) functions provided by that other piece of software. A familiar example would be a restaurant-review application or website (like this one) that shows the user a map of the restaurant in question. This is possible because Google (or MapQuest or whoever) made an API with that functionality and, just as important, released that API to the developer of the restaurant app.*

* I’m really stuck for a good metaphor here. In some ways, an API is like how Provence sells lots of nice products at its restaurants/stores, but you can buy Provence bread at the Green Hills Kroger. It’s as…

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