In a “hang on what?” moment, a top lawyer for Oracle has claimed that developers should not celebrate Google’s win which effectively kills off any possibility of the GPL licence working.
For those who came in late, Oracle sued Google for using a thousand lines of code in Android. Had it won then every developer who wrote software which contained a few lines of code which copyright trolls thought looked similar to theirs would be sued. It didn’t and now it seems that Oracle thinks that is bad for Open Source.
Writing in an op/ed for Ars Technica Annette Hurst who represented Oracle trial said that Google won a verdict that said an unauthorized, commercial, competitive, harmful use of software in billions of products is fair use.
“No copyright expert would have ever predicted such a use would be considered fair. Before celebrating, developers should take a closer look. Not only will creators everywhere suffer from this decision if it remains intact, but the free software movement itself now faces substantial jeopardy,” she said.
Her argument was that because the Java APIs were open, any use of them was justified and all licensing restrictions should be disregarded.
“In other words, if you offer your software on an open and free basis, any use is fair use... Royalties from licensed commercial exploitation fuel continued development and innovation of an open and free option. The balance depends upon adherence to the license restrictions in the open and free option. This jury's verdict suggests that such restrictions are now meaningless, since disregarding them is simply a matter of claiming "fair use,” she said.
Google has not replied yet, but we guess it will say that view misrepresents its position and that of open source. The case was about the specific structure of the Java APIs not open source code generally. Had Oracle won, open source would have been stuffed by large companies going through open source code looking for similarities and then suing on that basis. Open source companies with less money would be more likely to fold.
Oracle is appealing. The case we mean – just in case you thought we were thinking that Oracle looked pretty in the right sort of light.