Leading Scientists Urge Supreme Court to Ban API Copyrights

Dozens of computer scientists are calling on the Supreme Court to reverse its ruling that made application programming interfaces eligible for copyright protections. That decision came as part of a federal appeals court case in May over whether Google had copied Oracle’s Java API. The scientists believe that API copyrights would threaten the technology sector and stifle innovation, while Oracle contends that the decision was “a win for the entire software industry.”

news_02_smallSeveral prominent computer scientists, including Internet pioneer Vint Cerf and Python creator Guido van Rossum, are leading the effort to ban API copyrights. They say that open APIs were essential to building the first personal computers, operating systems, programming languages, Internet’s network protocols, and cloud computing.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is representing the scientists. Google also asked the justices to review the case last month, but so far, there’s no word yet on whether the court will hear the case.

In the friend-of-the-court brief submitted last week, the scientists argue that giving Oracle and other software companies copyright protections puts too much power in the hands of large businesses. APIs, which allow different programs to communicate with each other, could only be used for exactly what the original creators had in mind.

“API creators would have veto rights over any developer who wants to create a compatible program — regardless of whether she copies any literal code from the original API implementation,” they wrote. “That, in turn, would upset the settled business practices that have enabled the American computer industry to flourish, and choke off many of the system’s benefits to consumers.”

In contrast, Oracle said that copyright protection will help fuel innovation, according to Ars Technica. Oracle sued Google for copying parts of the software company’s Java APIs in Android and a federal judge originally sided with Google when the case was first brought to a federal court.