Microsoft terrified of Oracle versus HP ruling

When a court threw out Oracle’s court case against HP, Microsoft’s CEO Steve Ballmer clutched his heart, slumped against a wall, and shouted “noooooo” so loudly it could be heard in Texas.

US district court judge Alsup, who is a coder himself, ruled that APIs were not copyrightable and made his ruling cover the fact that judges have been attacking similar copyright claims for years.

Vole is terrified that Google’s big courtroom win against Oracle will hold up on appeal. Ballmer has unleashed his favourite legal hounds in a bid to bring down the ruling before it “destabilizes” the entire software industry.

According to Ars Technica, Microsoft filed a brief supporting Oracle together with NetApp and EMC.

Microsoft’s argument is that copyright supports “non-literal” elements of software. This makes it possible for Google to be found guilty of being a copyist even if it has not actually copied the code.

All that needs to be done is for the “structure, sequence, and organisation” (or SSO) of software “can, in some instances, be protected by the copyright in the work,” Microsoft says.

All this is possible, Microsoft claims, because the defendant has copied “some other, non-literal element of the software”.

Microsoft insists that if judges lean toward a world in which copyright is about simply copying then things will get messy.

Vole is not the only one which wants you to be done for copying the spirit of the software.

The Business Software Alliance says that the bar for copyright on software is supposed to be low, and it should include the type of declaratory code and headers in the Java APIs.

Other Big Content lawyers have also shown up saying that since Google copied “key source code” it should be labelled a pirate. It said that the district court showed “little respect for the creativity involved in Oracle’s works.” While that is true, that was because Alsup, being a programmer, pointed out that the apps were obvious and he could write them in seconds. We guess that an industry which regards Coldplay lyrics as deep and meaningful would see coding as very creative by comparison.

Fortunately for the real world, Oracle has got a hell of a job getting this case turned around.

Google essentially won twice,on API copyright and on fair use and getting that lot turned around on appeal is tricky. But if it manages it, all sorts of hells will be unleashed. It will be very easy to have more copyright battles in the software business because suddenly you would not have to pirate anything to land in court.