The recent fight between Google and Oracle over the ‘use’ of API source code has raised many questions. This article discusses a recent appellate decision which confirmed a lower court’s decision to reject Google’s arguments and claims to the API source code which it ‘borrowed’ from Oracle.
The message from the court’s decision is that under US law, the business method represented in an API may be patentable, but not the source code. API code may be copyrighted, but the two are distinct. The author states: “Contrary to what you may have read, you cannot be held liable for your programs placing function calls, via HTTP or any other method, to any server’s APIs”. Programs may make calls to server’s API’s [“use” them in this sense], but no one can copy the source code of those API’s without violating copyright [“use them” in your own software development]. Of course, owners of API’s can license the use of the source code. As the costly feud between Google and Oracle demonstrates, it is important for API owners to have API user licensing agreements in place .
- API owners should have API User/Licensing Agreements.
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