Brief of Software Innovators, Start-Ups, and Investors as Amici Curiae in Oracle v. Google
Author(s): Jennifer Urban
How Limitations on Copyright in Computer Programs Are Critical to Software Innovation and Investment.
case raises critical questions about how far copyright extends into the
basic communication tools — Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)
— that are presently ubiquitous in the Web environment and software
development generally. APIs establish basic interoperability between
systems, between applications and systems, and between applications
This kind of interoperability between programs and
systems is foundational to software innovation, as well as to computer
systems and ecosystems themselves. Because of this, how copyright’s
default rules affect interoperability is central to how innovation
happens on the ground. These rules have been stable for many years.
Baker v. Selden, which was decided in 1879, established that copyright
law extends only to creative expression and not to ideas; section 102(b)
of the 1976 Copyright Act makes clear that copyright does not cover
methods of operation, procedures, processes, or systems; and courts,
especially in the Ninth Circuit, have explained how these concepts apply
directly to interoperability needs.
In the case, Oracle is
arguing that high-level aspects of the Java APIs are copyrightable, and
so that Google has infringed its copyrights in the Java APIs by using
some of them to create a Java implementation for Android. The district
court ruled that the elements of the Java APIs at issue are not
copyrightable, and that Google had therefore not infringed. The Federal
Circuit is now reviewing the case on appeal.
In this amicus
brief, a wide range of start-up companies, their investors, and
innovators, including those who were involved in the similar Lotus v.
Borland case thirty years ago, ask the court to consider the impact
changing copyright boundaries would have on innovation and investment.
It explains how innovators rely on APIs, and how limitations on
copyright undergird innovation and competition in the software and
Internet spaces. The brief argues that the district court’s ruling was
correct, and urges the court to preserve the longstanding limitations on
copyright in computer programs. It explains that doing otherwise harm
what is presently a vital and robust industry, chilling both innovation
and the investment that supports it.
Keywords: copyright, intellectual property, software, innovation, investment, investors, start-ups, open source, open standards, oracle, google