Friday, January 24, 2014

API Copyrightability

Florian Mueller:

As far as the copyrightability of Oracle’s Java API declaring code is concerned, I would go even further: it’s practically inconceivable that the district court’s non-copyrightability holding will be upheld considering that the circuit judges made perfectly clear that District Judge Alsup confused “fair use” and copyrightability issues and that Google’s whole non-copyrightability theory, which Judge Alsup adopted in its entirety, rests on a complete misreading of two key cases (Sega and Sony).

Ole Begemann:

What does it even mean to “hijack APIs”? I can’t remember a single case of a large company crushing a small developer solely by copying their innovative API. You don’t lure users away from a platform just by offering the same API. You get users for your API by offering a superior platform.

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Another important example of copying APIs for the greater good is when a company creates a web service with an API (e.g. Twitter), developers create clients for that API, and then other smaller companies adopt the same API. This allows for client interoperability; the same client can access different web services without having to implement a ton of different APIs. It thus allows smaller platforms to have third-party clients, when they would otherwise be too small to warrant such development.

Eventually, the proprietary API turns into a de-facto standard.

Other examples of this are Blogger and Dropbox.

While it can be argued that this might be bad for the API's originator, I don't think anyone can argue that this is bad for the software ecosystem as a whole. In fact, making this illegal will make it much harder for smaller companies to enter entrenched markets.

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