Against Monopoly

defending the right to innovate

Monopoly corrupts. Absolute monopoly corrupts absolutely.

Copyright Notice: We don't think much of copyright, so you can do what you want with the content on this blog. Of course we are hungry for publicity, so we would be pleased if you avoided plagiarism and gave us credit for what we have written. We encourage you not to impose copyright restrictions on your "derivative" works, but we won't try to stop you. For the legally or statist minded, you can consider yourself subject to a Creative Commons Attribution License.


What's copywritable? Go fish in court.

The courts continue to get to make copyright and patent law. The latest involves Oracle which is suing Google over Oracle's Application Programming Interface (API) as well as other lesser elements.

The heart of the difference is whether the Java API can be copyrighted or not. Google has been using it in the belief that it was not protected, particularly for Android, Google's operating system for cell phones and tablets. Oracle which acquired the software from Sun Microsystems two years ago, has much to gain if it wins rumored to be as much as a billion dollars.

Oracle's case is that its API is copyrighted along with the underlying software code. Google argues that it can't be copyrighted because the elements of an API are like words, in free and common use.

If it loses, Google would have to eliminate the API or pay Oracle's price (or find a substitute to run the small free apps that are already widely used in Android gadgets).

The case took an odd turn last week, when the judge instructed the jury hearing the suit to assume that the copyright does cover the API but that he would issue his final ruling later in the proceedings. I suspect the jurors will take this to mean the judge has already intervened and made their efforts irrelevant. But that possibility will provide Google a basis to appeal.

Then on Friday, the judge sent aspects of the case to the jury link here. The best current status of the suit is described there in detail. For all the twists and turns, go to Groklaw link here for a daily account in extenso of the arguments.

Then today, a European court ruled in another case that an API is not copyrightable link here. Good for it, blocking the steady expansion of the reach of copyright.


"What's copywritable?" Pretty much anything, really. However, if you want to include something in an advert you're copywriting, then you either have to get the correct licence(s) or ensure it's in the Public Domain.

You have it correct. Any fixed form of expression is theoretically covered by copyright, which includes software. I am unsure what John Bennett means by "expansion" of copyright in this case, because courts ruled in 1974 that computer code is covered by copyright, and Congress formalized the copyright protection of software in 1980. To claim that covering software at this point is an "expansion" is worse than closing the barn door after the horse is gone. It is more like trying to close the door after the horse left, the house was bulldozed, and the barn collapsed.

@ Anonymous: You misunderstood my intent. I was actually trying to point out a huge but basic spelling error in a humorous way. Basically, copyright is the legally granted monopoly on the tangible expression of ideas, whereas copywriting is the act of creating copy for adverts.

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