Oracle has had huge sulk over losing its Java court battle to Google and is saying some surprisingly strange things in the tech press about it.
Probably the daftest is a comment by Annette Hurst is an attorney at Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe who represented Oracle in the recent Oracle v. Google trial. In an op-ed she claimed that Oracle’s loss means that Open Source is dead in the water.
For those who came in late, Google successfully argued that its use of Java APIs, about 11,500 lines of code in all, was protected by “fair use.”
Hurst said that rather than developers celebrating that they will not be sued by copyright trolls for using bits of code, they should be worried that the free software movement itself now faces substantial jeopardy.
She said that Google argued that Java APIs have been open, any use of them was justified and all licensing restrictions should be disregarded. In other words, if you offer your software on an open and free basis, any use is fair use.
However if that narrative becomes the law of the land, the GPL is toast.
“No business trying to commercialise software with any element of open software can afford to ignore this verdict. Dual licensing models are very common and have long depended upon a delicate balance between free use and commercial use. Royalties from licensed commercial exploitation fuel continued development and innovation of an open and free option. The balance depends upon adherence to the license restrictions in the open and free option. This jury’s verdict suggests that such restrictions are now meaningless, since disregarding them is simply a matter of claiming “fair use,” Hurst said.
She said that it was hard to see how the GPL can survive such a result. Software businesses will have to accelerate their move to the cloud where everything can be controlled as a service rather than software. Consumers can expect to find decreasing options to own anything for themselves, decreasing options to control their data, decreasing options to protect their privacy.
“Developers beware. You may think you got a win yesterday. But it’s time to think about more than your desires to copy freely when you sit down at a keyboard. Think about the larger and longer term implications. You should have been on Oracle’s side in this fight. Free stuff from Google does not mean free in the sense Richard Stallman ever intended it,” Hurst said.
True, but what difference would have made to developers who instead of being allowed to write code which included similar APLs? The would risk being sued into a coma by Oracle or any other copyright troll who thought they saw a couple of lines of their code in a trillion word program.