Alliance Disagrees with Justice Department; Urges Supreme Court to Consider Copyrightability of API Declaring Code

Two years ago the Alliance urged courts to recognize that API “declaring code” is not copyrightable because it is essentially a method of operation.  Last week the United States Department of Justice disagreed with the Alliance, when it discouraged the U.S. Supreme Court from reviewing a Federal Circuit Court decision in the Oracle v. Google case. The Alliance believes the Supreme Court should review the lower court’s decision.

App developers make significant, independent investments to become fluent with particular programming interfaces and in writing code that includes elements dictated by those interfaces. Copyright law should not force developers to abandon those investments just to switch platforms.

If an app developer has to learn entirely new programming interfaces and entirely re-write apps to switch between platforms, then copyright law will have substantially increased platform-switching costs for developers and it is less likely developers will write for second, third or even fourth platforms. This will make it harder for new platforms, like Windows Phone or Mozilla, to become competitive with platforms, like iOS and Android.

Contrary to the Justice Department’s position, software innovators have long understood that “declaring code,” which defines the common interfaces to applications, is a “method of operation” and not copyrightable.  For more than 40 years this understanding has enabled programmers to “reimplement” existing program interfaces in creating new applications.  Without predictable access to these common building blocks, many software projects that rely on independent reimplementation of existing interfaces may face copyright jeopardy.  This would harm competition, innovation and reduce opportunities for developers.

Jon Potter

President and Co-Founder