Tech world stunned as court rules Oracle can own APIs, Google loses copyright appeal


In an unusual decision, an appeals court in Washington ruled on Friday that Oracle(s orcl) can copyright application programming interfaces (APIs) for the Java programming language. The ruling is a defeat for Google(s goog), which uses the APIs for its Android software, but also has implications for the technology industry as a whole, where APIs — which let computer programs speak to each other — are considered to be a basic building tool and outside the scope of copyright.

In a unanimous three-judge ruling, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that a district judge in California erred in 2012 by declaring that the APIs were simply a function or an idea, and not an expression subject to copyright protection.

The appeals court found instead that, despite the fact Google had written its own code to implement the software, it had infringed copyright by using Oracle’s « declaring code » — which represents headers and other…

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