1709 Blog: for all the copyright community

Saturday, 10 May 2014

The CopyKat - breaking news on Oracle's victory over Google in the API spat

Oracle Corp has won an important victory against Google Inc when the U.S. appeals court decided Oracle could copyright parts of the Java programming language, which Google used to design its Android smartphone operating system. In June 2012 U.S. District Judge William Alsup ruled that the Java APIs replicated by Google were not subject to copyright protection and were free for Google to use although the Judge said "This order does not hold that Java API packages are free for all to use without license" adding "It does not hold that the structure, sequence, and organization of all computer programs may be stolen. Rather, it holds on the specific facts of this case, the particular elements replicated by Google were free for all to use under the Copyright Act." 

The three-judge U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington has reversed this decision with the court saying "We conclude that a set of commands to instruct a computer to carry out desired operations may contain expression that is eligible for copyright protection". 

The Court of Appeals recalled what Circuit Judge Boudin said in the 1995 Lotus decision: “Applying copyright law to computer programs is like assembling a jigsaw puzzle whose pieces do not quite fit.”

The Court said that the district court had failed to distinguish between the threshold question of what is copyrightable -  which presents a low bar - and the scope of conduct that constitutes infringing activity. The court had also erred by importing fair use principles, including interoperability concerns, into its copyrightability analysis.

The appellate court ordered further proceedings before Alsup to decide whether Google's actions were protected under fair use saying "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. Because the jury deadlocked on fair use, we remand for further consideration of Google’s fair use defense in light of this decision. With respect to Google’s cross-appeal, we affirm the district court’s decisions: 1) granting Oracle’s motion for JMOL (judgment as a matter of law)  as to the eight decompiled Java files that Google copied into Android; and (2) denying Google’s motion for JMOL with respect to the rangeCheck function. Accordingly, we affirm-in-part, reverse-in-part, and remand for further proceedings. ChillingEffects commented that the case "may have significant consequences for cloud computing, software interoperability and innovation in general"  and Google commented “We’re disappointed by this ruling, which sets a damaging precedent for computer science and software development, and are considering our options.”  The case in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit is Oracle America Inc vs. Google Inc, 2013-1021, decided 9th May 2014 - a link to download the judgment can be found here http://recode.net/2014/05/09/oracle-wins-appeal-in-java-copyright-fight-with-google/

Eleonora has also blogged about this case over on the IPKat and it's well worth a read .

And U.S. District Judge Katherine Forrest in Manhattan has ordered a division of Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc to stop using a key piece of software used for it's trade finance business after finding the bank liable for copyright infringement. The judge entered a permanent injunction requiring RBS's ABN Amro unit to stop using the BankTrade software within a year, and not to use it to process new trade finance transactions received 60 days from now saying ""ABN may not continue benefiting from its blatant and ongoing infringement simply because stopping that infringement will be disruptive to its business" in a case brought by which produces the software and had sought the injunction

In Vietnam, Tri Viet (First News) Publishing House has failed in a copyright infringement case against private printing centre, Huy Thi,  and faces a VND26-million (US$1,200) legal bill. The court in Thanh Tri District stated that Tri Viet has not suffered any losses from the copyright violation: Whilst three years ago the Huy Thi printing centre was found to have illegally printed nearly 10,000 copies of the books, Quang Ganh Lo Di Ma Vui Song (How to Stop Worrying and Start Living) and 7 Thoi Quen Cua Ban Tre Thanh Dat (The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Teens), both of which were published by Tri Viet and indeed Huy Thi were fined VND12 million (US$600) for that -  the illegally printed books were seized and destroyed in 2011 before they could be released in the market so the court found that there was no merit in Tri Viet's claim for VND500 million (US$24,000) for violation of copyrights, plus VND50 million (US$2,400) for expenditure incurred on recalling the "fake" books - and nor had the Tri Viet publishing house provided any documents to the court proving  economic losses incurred due to copyright infringement by Huy Thi. An appeal is planned with a representative of Tri Viet saying "We need to do that for the honour and justice of writers and publishers". 

As the average person has illegally downloaded approximately 2,900 music files and 90 movies ... and the Huffington Post has rather amusingly estimated that every single man, woman and child on earth now owes the combined music and movie industries in the order of $67 million. Each. This is based on 'average' jury awards of $22,500 per song for copyright violations in the US: That is each person. Not cumulatively. Cumulatively, it would be $470,925,000,000,000,000,000 -- which is also 6.63 times the GDP of the entire planet. 

In Sweden a new study on the effects of the country's anti-piracy law shows that the legislation initially pushed up music sales by 36 percent - and that internet traffic in the country dropped significantly. However, whilst the results suggest that the law initially had the desired effect (well, desired by the content industries),  the researchers also note this didn't last long. Economists at Uppsala University in Sweden say "We find that the reform decreased Internet traffic by 16% and increased music sales by 36% during the first six months. Pirated music therefore seems to be a strong substitute to legal music" but added that the controversial law only had limited results saying “The deterrent effect decreased quickly, possibly because of the few and slow legal processes. Law enforcement through convictions therefore seems to be a necessary ingredient for the long-run success of a copyright protection law”. 

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