Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Oracle's short vision

Mr. Magoo, you are more fun

News of the day (october 29 2010). From Computer World I read «Oracle: Google 'directly copied' our Java code». In this article is exposed how and where Google did copy Java's code. From the article we read

«The infringed elements of Oracle America’s copyrighted work include Java method and class names, definitions, organization, and parameters; the structure, organization and content of Java class libraries; and the content and organization of Java’s documentation»

I organize this declaration in the following list
  1. Java's methods names;
  2. Java's class names, definitions, organization;
  3. Java methods' parameters;
  4. the structure, organization and content of Java class libraries;
  5. Content and organization of Java’s documentation;
Pay attention, this statements aren't so unfamiliar. Do you know where I (and probably you) did hear them before? When SCO accused Linux of copyright infringement. SCO was more prepared, saying mr. Torvalds copied directly UNIX code into his kernel (Linux). In the final chapter of this ridiculous theatre, SCO showed this famous pieces of code: few macro definitions of the errno.h header file. These macros look similar to this:

#define PI 3.14159265

The SCO-Linux controversies was more complex and still continue. Anyway, SCO showed some code and, on a computer-science lawsuit, gave some material to think about.
Let's return to Oracle's assertions. How much are they real? As a programmer with some knowledge in law and licensing, they seem ridicolous.

  1. You can't set a copyright for a "Function Name". Neither for a class name or a declaration. They're not "trademarks". The only trademark could be the "java" prefix in some cases (such as java.*), but I have doubts, because there are placed to grant the Java Standard Definition;
  2. Look point 1;
  3. Look point 1;
  4. As I say on point 1, I can understand Oracle dislikes the word "java" in a whole classpath, but this is placed to follow the Java Standard Definitions;
  5. This is more difficult: as you can read here, Oracle's documentation distribution isn't released under the GNU Free Documentation License.
If you think well, there's something else to say: Android is based on 3 things: a Virtual Machine (Dalvik), a language (Java) and a classpath (Harmony). Google never said Android runs Java and they're right, because Dalvik is very different to Hotspot; Harmony is a java classpath reimplementation released under the Apache License.
By the way, "Java" was released under GPL by Sun Microsystems just before it was purchased by Oracle and just some pieces are still under a non-free license. So, Oracle's charges to Google seems inconsistent to me. If the problem is documentation, then Google can pay a team to rewrite it.

I think the main reason to start this lawsuit campaign is the lesser importance of the Java Micro Edition platform. How Oracle (a server provider) could be afraid on losing the mobile market? The answer is Oracle feels threatened by the decreasing importance of selling licenses to use the Java Micro Edition. Sun Microsystems earned selling to smartphone producers (Nokia, Erikson, Motorola, ecc.) the autorization to include a JME on their products. I think this was the only profittable Java client platform. Now that JME is going out  of market (killed by iOS and Android), maybe Oracle is playing dirt to give new life to this project.
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