April 18, 2012
The currently running lawsuit brought by Oracle against Google over Google's use of the Java APIs has made me scratch my head. It may well be that I just don't get it, but from the first two days of the trial, it seems that Google couldn't have violated the license, because Java is licensed under the GPL (and Google didn't withhold the source code for their VM, libraries, or software). What Google did was use the same method signatures (method names, parameter types & order, and return types). So Oracle, having lost almost every other argument in pre-trial, now seems intent to argue that the Java APIs are copyrighted, and Google's use of the same method signatures and class names constitutes copyright violation.
If it were possible to copyright an API, modern programming itself would be brought to its knees. Let me say this again: In their blind rage at Google, Oracle seems intent on destroying object oriented programming. If you don't believe me, then consider one of the key concepts of object oriented programming, inheritance.
Take Oracle's own ListCellRenderer documentation, for example, which describes how an object looking to implement a custom view of items in a JList, for example, must implement ListCellRenderer's API by using exactly the same method name, parameter types, parameter order, and return value as defined by the ListCellRenderer.
So, it would seem that any code that actually does this is in violation of Oracle's Java license, but sneaky Oracle is actually recommending that Java programmers do it that way. Why? Because all of object oriented programming rests on implementing what another object defines, and extending the functionality of others. Claim copyright on an API, and one of the fundamentals of object oriented development is shackled at the ankles.
I would think it rather difficult to specify legally under precisely what circumstances the use of inheritance is not a violation, and when it is. The ugly little iconoclast clamoring within me almost wants Oracle to win this, just to see who is the first livid and barely sane programmer to take out Larry Ellison over this…
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