Oracle Loses. All Your APIs Are Belong to Us

JavaFrom the ‘Legal Pariah’ files:

The modern world of software development relies on APIs in order to interact. APIs are the glue that hold and integrate things together and are as essential as oxygen and water.

In its battle against Google over Android, Oracle tried to copyright Java APIs. If Oracle had won, software development as we know it would have been changed for the worst. If Oracle had won, the modern Internet as we know it could not exist in the same form it does today. If Oracle had won, everyone but Oracle (and big $$) would have lost.

Oracle did not win.

Judge Alsup delivered a decision yesterday that will echo through the ages about copyright and development processes. In his judgement he wrote:

Contrary to Oracle, copyright law does not confer ownership over any and all ways to implement a function or specification, no matter how creative the copyrighted implementation or specification may be. The Act confers ownership only over the specific way in which the author wrote out his version. Others are free to write their own implementation to accomplish the identical function, for, importantly, ideas, concepts and functions cannot be monopolized by copyright.

No doubt the decision will be challenges in the weeks and years to come, but for now it will stand. Software development will continue as it has for the past decade, leveraging APIs to openly integrate software and connect people and technology.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at, the news service of the IT Business Edge Network, the network for technology professionals Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.

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