FSF lashes out at Oracle over Google Java lawsuit

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) has lashed out at Oracle over its Java patent infringement lawsuit against Google, saying that Oracle is trying to take people’s software rights away and destroy the Java community.

In a long-awaited statement, the FSF had nothing but bad things to say about Oracle and what it was doing to the software industry through this lawsuit, saying that “nobody deserves to be the victim of software patent aggression, and Oracle is wrong to use its patents to attack Android.” 

The FSF said that Sun Microsystems‘ move to make Java open source was the right thing to do and should even have been done earlier, but that Oracle is now threatening to undo everything, which will lead to programmers eschewing Java for fear of being struck with the legal hammer.

“An aggressive infringement suit over software patents is a clear attack against someone’s freedom to use, share, modify, and redistribute software—freedoms that everyone should always have. Oracle now seeks to take these rights away, not just from Google, but from all Android users,” the FSF said.

In August Oracle sued Google over its use of Java in the Linux-based Android operating system. Java is a programming language that was developed by Sun Microsystems, which Oracle acquired over the course of the last two years. 

Oracle said: “In developing Android, Google knowingly, directly and repeatedly infringed Oracle’s Java-related intellectual property. This lawsuit seeks appropriate remedies for their infringement.”

Yet in 2006 and 2007 Sun Microsystems made Java open source, which means it should have been free for any developers to use. Java is an extremely popular programming language, one of the most commonly used today, and instead of fostering its use, as Oracle initially claimed it would, it is threatening its adoption by brandishing the legal sword.

Clearly it seems that Oracle’s purpose for acquiring Sun Microsystems was so that it could then file patent lawsuits left, right, and centre, particularly knowing that big companies with lots of money to throw about, like Google, were using Java in their products.

The FSF said it is against all software patents on principle and encouraged Google to fight against Oracle’s claims, which could spell doom for the Java community. It also said that Google could have avoided the lawsuit by using IcedTea, a GPL-covered Java implementation based on the original code, but was clear to point out that none of Google’s failings excuses Oracle’s behaviour.

“Oracle is signalling to the world that they intend to limit everyone’s ability to [create new and exciting software] with Java, and that’s unjustifiable,” the FSF said.