The Oracle vs. Google case on Java is such a precedence case that any ruling on APIs vs. copyright might open a can of worms. The outcome of this ruling literally will affect any software company and developers designing APIs (and protecting those as Intellectual Property).
(I personally believe programming languages and its APIs should not merit copyright protection — languages are the means of unique expression, not the expression itself).
In the meantime, Europe courts just ruled on this exact matter (SAS Institute Inc. v. World Programming Ltd) against copyright.
A couple of key quotes from the article Oracle V. Google Jury Deadlocked? (Information Week):
“Google’s position is that APIs, like computer languages, cannot be copyrighted; Oracle disagrees.”
“…if the jury finds that Google infringed and that Google’s actions don’t qualify as fair use, then the copyrightability of APIs comes into play.”
“The primary issue that might be made moot is whether Oracle can even make a copyright claim. The judge has made clear that he reserves the right to rule on whether APIs can be copyrighted under the law. But presumably, he’d rather not if there are other means to resolve Oracle’s claim. If Google is found not to have infringed, he doesn’t need to rule on the copyrightability of APIs. If Google is found to have infringed, but to have done so as permitted under the fair use doctrine, he also doesn’t need to rule on whether APIs can be protected.”
Above: note how the judge is trying to avoid having to deliberate on APIs and Copyright; trying to stay away of such “debacle” and its consequences.
On Thursday, that very question was resolved in Europe: The Court of Justice of the European Union ruled in a similar case, SAS Institute Inc. v. World Programming Ltd, that neither the functionality of computer program nor the format of its data files are expressive enough to merit copyright protection.
Read the whole article Oracle V. Google Jury Deadlocked at Information Week.
(Happy Cinco de Mayo)