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Why? Because it would represent a change in the way copyright has worked since at least 1879, when Baker v. Selden was decided. "The scope of copyright protection for computer programs has always been carefully and purposefully limited," the brief notes. Remember Lotus v. Borland where the court found that a menu command hierarchy was an uncopyrightable method of operation "because it was essential to making use of the program's functional capabilities"? "The Java API elements at issue here are comparable to the menu hierarchy in Lotus: uncopyrightable because they constitute the method of operation through which a user's program accesses, controls, and makes use of the functional capabilities of the Java API," they tell the court. So why is Oracle trying to upset this careful balance?
Jennifer Urban, with the Samuelson Law, Technology and Public Policy Clinic at the U.C. Berkeley School of Law is representing this group, and here's their amicus brief [PDF] in support of Google. They tell the court why they care about this case and how they hope to be helpful to the court:Amici are software innovators, start-ups, and investors. The signatories on this brief include innovators, and founders of software and Internet companies that actively innovate in and compete across a wide array of markets. Signatories also include investors who invest in, and are expert in assessing the risks of investing in, companies that rely on APIs and other interoperability tools. Amici have broad first-hand experience in the role of interoperability-and the balanced and stable copyright rules on which it depends-in driving innovation in the technology sector. A full list of amici with individual descriptions can be found at http://www.law.berkeley.edu/amici.htm.
Amici's shared interest in this case is in preserving the deliberate balance Congress and the courts have established for software copyright, including longstanding limits on copyrightability that enable innovation by fostering interoperability and competition. Amici join to explain the importance to innovation and investment in innovation of upholding the District Court's careful application of these limitations to the Java API elements at issue in this case.I'm so glad people who fully understand the technology are stepping up to explain it to the court, in the hope that it will help the court to reach a better decision. It must be very difficult to rule on a case if you don't understand the technology or fully grasp the implications of a case. And as the brief points out, if Oracle's position were to be adopted, even in part, it would "drastically expand copyrightability".