Mike Loukides sums up the end of this phase of the Oracle v. Google trial in the title of his piece on Radar: “The End of a Fishing Expedition”.
First, Mike is right, as he very often is, but this sentence gives me pause:
The winner in the case isn’t just Google; it’s all software developers, who don’t have to worry as much about creative interpretations of copyright law, and are free to develop compatible implementations of an API.
Yes, Alsup’s decision is something of a victory for Open Source and people interested in compatibility, but Alsup also mentioned something in the summary that I’m still trying to understand:
This order does not hold that Java API packages are free for all to use without license.
While this was a win for Dalvik, Java is still confined in this annoying “box”. OpenJDK is open source, but the language and is still gated by this TCK. I have yet to see any analysis from people I trust (aka groklaw) on this topic. Java still isn’t free, but, at least, there’s no barrier to people creating an alternative implementation (they just can’t call it Java).
It will be interesting to see what an Oracle scorned does to the licensing terms it uses to distribute Java. While the APIs are not copyrightable, my lawyer friends have told me that there’s not much limit to what Oracle could put into a EULA that accompanies the JDK. (Just look at how Apple uses the EULA for the iOS SDK for proof that anything is possible.) If they are rational and want the platform to succeed they won’t do this, but I’m worried that now that Java isn’t as lucrative as they thought it was that they might just discard it (and ruin it in the process).
I also fear the appeal. I’m a pessimist, if this case makes it to the Supremes all bets are off.
I do agree with Mike, Alsup is something of a modern hero.