Don’t be evil Google

How is it that Google feels its entitled to steal elements of Java and get away with it. No matter how you look at it, that’s an asshole move.



  • deanishe

    Disagree entirely.

    While I don’t want to belittle the work that goes into designing a good API, granting legal protection to an API by law essentially excludes any attempt at compatibility.

    It’s essentially saying we’ve designed a special screw head and everyone else is banned from building a screwdriver/wrench that fits this screw head. That is to say, if all you’ve brought to the party is an interface, it’s probably not worth protecting.

    By and large, any API worth using (for its own sake, not because it’s the only interface to a must-have product) is worth using because it makes doing really cool shit easy. Which is to say, all the heavy lifting is hidden behind the API, and if there’s no magic behind the API, what value does the API have?

    Granting protection to APIs will kill services like pinboard.in and app.net dead (not to mention WINE, Samba etc.). They leveraged existing APIs to bootstrap new services/products.

    What’s the value in allowing a company to kill superior services in the crib by granting them protection on what should be a trivial aspect of any product with substance?

    And moreover, granting protection to an API is a foot in the door of a very slippery slope (if you’ll excuse my mixed metaphor). Microsoft could possibly leverage that into preventing any software but Word from reading .doc files.

    • dr.no

      What kind of compatibility has Google’s VM with Sun’s VM. The answer is none. They are not compatible. One is complete reverse engineering of the other.

      This is not like C and Unix which is licensed from AT&T.

      All the header files with copyright are meaningless, then what does it say about other notices.

      • JohnDoey

        It says Google can appropriate whatever it wants from whomever it wants without paying for it, and then make money off it by selling ads.

        It’s an absurd decision. The idea that you can just Copy/Paste a competitor’s work and pass it off as your own is just completely absurd.

    • JohnDoey

      No, a screw is not the correct analogy. A better analogy would be if Ferrari built an engine for a new sports car, and Lamborghini photocopied the plan for that engine, changed the copyright notice from “copyright Ferrari” to “copyright Lamborghini” and then licensed the plans to Ford, GM, Nissan in return for a cut of their sales.

      Lamborghini can build their own engine if they want to license an engine for free.

      What happened in this case is as if Lamborghini defended their copying of the Ferrari engine by saying, “all cars need engines to move, Ferrari can’t be the only one who can make engines,” and the judge agreed, missing the fact that Lamborghini could design their own engine, and so can Ford and GM and Nissan. They don’t have a right to build their engines from Ferrari plans with the copyright notice removed and a new one added.

      In the attached brief, they essentially bring in a Porsche and a Corvette and attempt to show the judge that each of them has its own uniquely designed and constructed engine, and they both still move on the roads. Stealing the Ferrari designs is not necessary to make a car. And if it were legal to steal the Ferrari engine, then nobody would invest in designing engines anymore because a) you can steal someone else’s plans, b) anything you make will just get stolen and sold by a competitor anyway.

      compatibility

      That is addressed in the attached brief. You have it backwards. Dalvik is NOT compatible with Java. What Google did decreased compatibility and fragmented the Java platform. Had Google chosen one of the 3 licenses under which they could legally use Java (2 you pay money for, 1 you pay for by contributing code) then all Java programming would be compatible with all other Java programming. Instead, it is fragmented Java versus Dalvik.

  • janakj

    Be careful with this argument — FOSS Patents is a paid consultant for Microsoft and Oracle, and has consistently had a clear bias. It’s worth reading the judge’s (William Alsup’s) conclusions, who is technically literate and did his homework, before making the conclusions that you do:

    http://www.groklaw.net/articlebasic.php?story=20120531172522459

    • janakj

      (Florian Mueller is his name, btw. Do a websearch about him and draw your own conclusions.)

  • Steven Fisher

    There’s fair use, and then there’s what Google has done:

    1. Negotiate a deal for the APIs.

    2. Implement their own implementation, using Sun’s APIs.

    3. Distribute this to COMPANIES for resale to customers.

    4. Reject the licensing deal.

    Bluntly, I suspect they haven’t done anything illegal. The law is not written such to classify any immoral move as illegal. That’s up to the media at large to call them out on it, and consumers to avoid working with intentionally immoral companies.

    It’s just a pity that technology morals are so hard for the media and consumers to understand. Why is it that people think someone else’s effort should be free, whether or not the person or company who put in the effort agrees?

    • JohnDoey

      Yes, they quite obviously did something illegal: copyright infringement. They are using copyrighted Java materials (API, SDK, etc.) and benefiting from them commercially, without a license. It is the same as if a music artist changed a few words in a Beatles song and released it as their own work and kept all the money they made, paying nothing to Lennon/McCartney.

      What happened in this case is Google managed to convince a judge to void Sun/Oracle’s copyright on the basis that an API could only be written one way in order to function correctly, therefore Sun/Oracle can’t own copyright on that. Basically, Google convinced the judge that everything Sun/Oracle created was just a steering wheel.

      What the linked article is about is that Sun/Oracle has submitted a brief arguing that an API and SDK is a gigantic creative effort involving thousands of really hard decisions, and resulting in a unique document that is protected by copyright.

      The brief is really damning towards Google. They compare Java with Apple’s CocoaTouch and Microsoft’s Windows Phone API and show that a basic function like setting the time zone is done in an entirely different way by each of the 3 companies, proving that the same functionality can result from 3 different copyrighted API’s. Then compare to Google, who just Copy/Pasted the Sun/Oracle work, added a few things, removed a few things, and renamed it “Dalvik” copyright Google and shipped it to various hardware makers and software developers for free, so that none of them needed a Java license anymore. This also fragmented Java, whose primary purpose is to provide non-fragmented cross-platform software development.

      So they not only did not pay for their own license (there are 3 kinds available, 2 you pay with money and 1 you pay be contributing code back) they also gave their almost-Java away so that others don’t need to pay for a license, and thirdly they fragmented Java, reducing its value as a cross-platform toolkit.

      At some point, a judge who is not blinded by Google’s brand and BS will rule correctly. Part of the problem is if API’s are copyrightable, that will shake up the mobile market because then Dalvik has to be destroyed, and Google must pay damages, and then Sun/Oracle can start suing every handset maker who ever used Android. However, on the other hand, if API’s are not copyrightable, that could shake up all of computing, all of software development, because HP for example could just copy all of Microsoft’s API’s and ship their own HP Windows, without paying Microsoft. Or Samsung could copy iOS API’s and run iOS apps, and nobody would want to invest in developing API’s anymore. Maybe Googlebot could also be cloned, so this isn’t necessarily good for Google.

      Of course the right thing to do is enforce the existing copyright on Sun/Oracles’ work. As it says in the brief, a company of software geniuses created Java over the course of 15 years before Google just copied their work, changed a few things, renamed it, put a Google copyright notice on it (best part,) and started making money off it. Had Sun/Oracle known their work could all be appropriated by another company as its own, they would not have spent 15 years and millions of dollars developing it in the first place. That is the whole idea of copyright.

  • rattyuk

    I see that the Google fanboys have hit the site again.

    • rj

      The so-called “fanboys” added something of value to the discussion. Have you got anything useful to contribute?

      • JohnDoey

        Yes, he pointed out that to be on Google’s side in this case, you have to be biased towards Google. That is clearly true if you read the case files. There just is no defense for taking a Sun/Oracle document that took 15 years and millions of dollars to develop and has your choice of 3 kinds of license and erasing “copyright Sun/Oracle” and putting on “copyright Google” and then SELLING IT. That just can’t be defended.

        • rj

          Its clear from your posts in this thread that you don’t understand the difference between an API specification and its implementation.

  • Carl

    Protecting the API would be more evil. Why shouldn’t you be able to build your own engine that accepts unleaded gasoline, just like the competitors? Allowing this to succeed would just grant more power to the trolls.

    • JohnDoey

      Nobody is stopping Google from creating their own API. Apple, Microsoft, Adobe all have their own API’s which are not Copy/Pasted from Java, and all of them are also copyrighted. So Java is not the only way to make an engine.

      But even if Java were the only engine, Java has 3 kinds of licenses (2 paid with money, 1 you pay with code) so that you can pay the makers of Java for their 15 years of work and millions of dollars in investment while they built THE ENGINE YOU WANT TO USE. If you like it so much you want to use it instead of building your own, then license it.

      Google is a giant company with like $60 billion in the bank, yet they are making money off all the software developers who built Java over 15 years, without paying them.

      • Carl

        Sorry, but Lukas above has it right.

  • Lukas

    Look, Jim, I’m a developer. I realize that this is kind of an obscure topic, but you’re mostly wrong. What Google did isn’t an asshole move. It’s not illegal. It shouldn’t be illegal. It’s very common, tons of companies do it, and it’s completely valid. It’s not stealing, it shouldn’t even be a copyright violation (and it probably isn’t).

    Google didn’t “steal elements of Java”. They wrote their own version of Java that exposed the same APIs as the real, open-sourced Java. Not a single bit of anything Sun did was copied from Sun to Google and used, published, or in any way incorporated into Google’s stuff. Google wrote all of it themselves. They only made it look like Java to people who write applications.

    When Apple wrote a way of importing Word files into Pages? That’s similar. Did Apple “steal” anything from Microsoft when they looked at Word files, and wrote their own parser? It’s not a perfect analogy, because what Apple did goes way further than what Google did.

    What about Parallels? Did they steal from Intel when they wrote an emulator for Intel’s code? Again, not a perfect analogy, because what Parallels did goes way further than what Google did.

    What about Wine, the not-emulator for Windows apps? Again, goes way further than anything Google did. Mono, the open-source version of .Net? Again, way further than Google.

    What Google did is something lots of developers do, every day. It’s completely valid. It shouldn’t be illegal. If it was illegal, if Orace won this case, repercussions for software development in general would be horrible.

  • normm

    Of course the most famous example of reimplementing an API is Linux, which includes all of the standard Unix utilities, shells, etc. SCO sued IBM over copying of Unix source code and contributing it to Linux, but not over the API’s themselves (as far as I know). SCO got others, including Microsoft, to pay them license fees. Eventually it was ruled that SCO didn’t own the copyright, and the legal owner (Novell) wasn’t interested in suing.