It’s only open source if the guys that own it say it is

It’s been a while since I wrote about APIs being under threat. The issue was tied to copyright, Java, and a legal battle that’s been raging for over 7 years now.

The latest ruling in the case, out this week, says that Java APIs are covered by copyright and that Oracle, which created Java, can set the terms under which they’re used. A more comprehensive update and case history here

So what does that mean for developers? Probably not much in the near term.

The beauty/curse of the US legal system is that, with enough money and time, you can really produce a lot of law over a single issue. And this one has life in it yet.

If the ruling goes unchallenged, Google is going to have to pay to keep the Java APIs embedded in Android. Beyond that, they either come to some agreement, or the ability to write code that runs everywhere fizzles. Given the popularity hit that would come with that outcome, I’m betting there’s at least a little incentive to just leave the world intact and have the accountants write a check for the difference.

So the bottom line is; don’t worry yet. Java won’t be coboled overnight, and we’ll give you plenty of warning if we see the lawyers losing interest.


Bruce Gustafson
President & CEO