Mozilla, joined by Medium, Etsy, Mapbox, Patreon, and Wikimedia, filed a friend of the court brief in Oracle v. Google asking the Supreme Court to review the Federal Circuit court’s holding that Google committed copyright infringement by reusing Oracle’s APIs. The court’s order found that the APIs for the Java platform are protected by copyright and can’t be used by others except with Oracle’s paid permission.
We disagree. Let’s say a manufacturer produces a toaster and publishes the dimensions of the slots so bakers know exactly what size loaf will fit. Bakers can sell bread knowing it will fit in everyone’s toasters; manufacturers can make new toasters knowing they will fit people’s bread; and everyone can make toast regardless of which bakery they frequent.
Should other toaster manufacturers be prohibited from using those square dimensions for their own toasters? Of course not. No one has ever bought a toaster and a loaf of bread and needed to ask themselves if they’d fit together. Yet this is what the Federal Circuit’s ruling could do to software programming, and the ability of different pieces of code or software or hardware to talk to each other. The result is ownership not only of the toaster (the Java platform) but also of the dimensions of the toast (the Java APIs).
This outcome is bad for competition and innovation, and makes no sense for copyright, which exists to promote creativity, not to stand in the way of common sense business practices.
Incorporating the Java APIs in other platforms allows Java developers to quickly and easily make their apps available to more consumers on more platforms without having to learn entirely new systems and code new versions, and makes it easier for users to migrate from one platform to another. This is standard practice in the software world, and indeed, much of the internet’s compatibility and interoperability is based on the ease with which platforms, browsers, and other common technologies can reimplement the functionality of core technologies.
We hope the Supreme Court will agree with us on the importance of this issue for software competition and innovation and agree to hear the case.