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Ann Droid and the Mysterious Incident of the Plagiarised Novel

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  • GoddersUK

    From Oracle's latest Java patent [EDIT:copyright, actually] case against google:

    Ann Droid wants to publish a bestseller. So she sits down with an advance copy of Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix—the fifth book—and proceeds to transcribe. She verbatim copies all the chapter titles—from Chapter 1 ("Dudley Demented") to Chapter 38 ("The Second War Begins"). She copies verbatim the topic sentences of each paragraph, starting from the first (highly descriptive) one and continuing, in order, to the last, simple one ("Harry nodded."). She then paraphrases the rest of each paragraph. She rushes the competing version to press before the original under the title: Ann Droid's Harry Potter 5.0. The knockoff flies off the shelves.

    J.K. Rowling sues for copyright infringement. Ann's defenses: "But I wrote most of the words from scratch. Besides, this was fair use, because I copied only the portions necessary to tap into the Harry Potter fan base."

    Obviously, the defenses would fail.

    Defendant Google Inc. has copied a blockbuster literary work just as surely, and as improperly, as Ann Droid—and has offered the same defenses.

    http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/2013/02/on-appeal-oracle-insists-googles-android-copied-key-java-code/

    Go home Oracle, you're drunk.

  • ScanIAm

    Most of my carreer I've been able to avoid working with Oracle products, but now that I've done it, I can safely say that it is a much inferior experience in every way.

  • Bas

    The details are so bizarre. Why would they explicitly quote sentences, or point out what the titles of various chapters are?

  • Deactivated User

    Comment removed at user's request.

  • Ray7

    yeah, but JK Rowling didn't open source her books, did she?

  • cbae

    , Ray7 wrote

    yeah, but JK Rowling didn't open source her books, did she?

    Is Java open source? Just because you can look at the source code doesn't make something open source.

  • Ray7

    , cbae wrote

    *snip*

    Is Java open source? Just because you can look at the source code doesn't make something open source.

    Sun open-sourced Java in 2006. When Oracle bought Sun, they bought into that. if they were hoping to win a lawsuit based on the murky area of API copyright then that wasn't very smart. 

  • GoddersUK

    , Bas wrote

    The details are so bizarre. Why would they explicitly quote sentences, or point out what the titles of various chapters are?

    I'm not that familiar with the case but isn't the claim that Google basically wrote their own version of the Java apis? Copying the titles/key plot sentences I think means copying the behaviour (or perhaps even the code) required to make their Java APIs behave like Sun's?

    , Ray7 wrote

    *snip*

    Sun open-sourced Java in 2006. When Oracle bought Sun, they bought into that. if they were hoping to win a lawsuit based on the murky area of API copyright then that wasn't very smart. 

    Java is licensed under the GPL, yes? In which case Google would also have to release their code under the GPL, no? (They may have done this, I'm not familiar with the situation.) Code being open source doesn't mean you can do what you want with it, it still has to be allowed by the license.

  • Bass

    , GoddersUK wrote

    *snip*

    I'm not that familiar with the case but isn't the claim that Google basically wrote their own version of the Java apis? Copying the titles/key plot sentences I think means copying the behaviour (or perhaps even the code) required to make their Java APIs behave like Sun's?

    Transcribing a book verbatim is copying a specific creative expression, and is not necessary to make a book that closely competes with Harry Potter. Copying APIs is copying a utilitarian feature of software, and is absolutely necessary for compatibility/integrability purposes.

    The thing is, copyright only protects specific creative expressions inherent in works, not ideas, themes or factual/utilitarian features (see patents). So Oracle is making a false equivalency here. It will be interesting to see if the court buys it, but case law in the USA already is pretty much settled that APIs are not copyrightable.

  • Ray7

    , GoddersUK wrote

    Java is licensed under the GPL, yes? In which case Google would also have to release their code under the GPL, no? (They may have done this, I'm not familiar with the situation.)

    Code being open source doesn't mean you can do what you want with it, it still has to be allowed by the license.

    Google's code is free for anyone to grab and hack, which is why there are so many different versions of Android floating about.  They have abided by the license.  Google was slapped with a tiny fine for code-lifting, but it only amounted to about $150k. The problem Oracle has is that it's very difficult to claim monetary damage when you're giving something away for free. 

  • Ray7

    , Bass wrote

    *snip*

    Transcribing a book verbatim is copying a specific creative expression, and is not necessary to make a book that closely competes with Harry Potter. Copying APIs is copying a utilitarian feature of software, and is absolutely necessary for compatibility/integrability purposes.

    The thing is, copyright only protects specific creative expressions inherent in works, not ideas, themes or factual/utilitarian features (see patents). So Oracle is making a false equivalency here. It will be interesting to see if the court buys it, but case law in the USA already is pretty much settled that APIs are not copyrightable.

    And this certainly won't stick in Europe.

  • GoddersUK

    @Bass: Oh yeah, I hadn't realised it was a copyright case rather than a patent case.

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