A federal appeals court on Friday reversed a federal judge’s ruling that Oracle’s Java API’s were not protected by copyright.
The debacle started when Google copied certain elements—names, declaration, and header lines—of the Java APIs in Android, and Oracle sued. A judge largely sided with Google in 2012, saying that the code in question could not be copyrighted.
“Because we conclude that the declaring code and the structure, sequence, and organization of the API packages are entitled to copyright protection, we reverse the district court’s copyrightability determination with instructions to reinstate the jury’s infringement finding as to the 37 Java packages,” the US Appeals Court for the Federal Circuit ruled Friday.
Google, which said it was exploring its legal options, decried Friday’s ruling. The Mountain View, CA-based media giant said the decision “sets a damaging precedent for computer science and software development.”
If this ruling stands, it will significantly damage the ability to develop software in the US and any country that honors US copyrights.
For starters, reverse engineering as a practice is dead. Any clean-room reimplementation is no longer possible since the interfaces themselves are copyrighted. Alternative implementations, drop-in replacements, etc., are gone without the express consent of the API copyright holder.
Developing software is about to get impossible.