On Friday the Electronic Frontier Foundation, on behalf of a veritable who’s who of influential computer scientists, filed a brief with the Supreme Court asking it to rule that APIs cannot be copyrighted.
EFF’s case is that APIs not being subject to copyright has been the foundation of progress and competition across hardware and software development.
The EFF is responding to a decision in Oracle’s longstanding lawsuit against Google for copyright infringement over Java APIs in Android.
When Google built Android, it included its own implementation of 37 Java APIs, using the same conventions and naming schemes as Sun’s original Java APIs (which were acquired by Oracle in 2010). These and other APIs included with Android are what allow developers to write apps that interface with the Android operating system. In other words, APIs are what allow your apps to actually do things with your phone.
After failing to reach a licensing deal with Google for the APIs, the two companies landed in court. A 2012 decision ruled those APIs were not copyrightable.
In the Spring, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit overturned that decision, finding instead that the Java APIs are subject to copyright.
“We hope that the Supreme Court will review this case and reverse the Federal Circuit’s misguided opinion which up-ended decades of industry practice and threatens the basic principles upon which our technology sector was built,” said EFF Special Counsel Michael Barclay.