Survey of Software Developers Underscores Importance of Supreme Court Review of Oracle v Google Case

Survey Finds 91% of Developers Concerned Current Ruling Will Result in New and Higher Costs, Some Companies Going Out of Business.

February 25, 2019, Washington D.C. - The Developers Alliance released new survey data today that demonstrates the deep concern across the developer community regarding the potential outcome of a long-running copyright dispute between Oracle and Google over the use of application programming interfaces (APIs) from the Java programming language.

APIs are the foundation of software interoperability, enabling two different applications to interact with one another. APIs are widely considered to be the driving factor in the explosive growth and development of software and applications, which have in turn, created huge benefits for consumers and boosted the economy.

"The stakes in this case are enormous. They go far beyond Google and Oracle,” said Bruce Gustafson, President and CEO of the Developers Alliance. “If they get the right to control APIs, we’ll quickly go from tens of thousands of amazing apps and devices to a handful of bloated offerings from a few big companies.”

After the Federal Circuit Court’s previous rulings in this case, industry advocates expressed concern that consumers could suffer from increased costs, reduced choice, disrupted mobile functionality, and that developers would face an arduous programming environment.

From Jan. 23 through Feb. 4 of this year, the Developers Alliance conducted a survey of over 200 developers and coders in the United States to determine their position on API usage and concerns regarding the outcome of the case before the Supreme Court:

  • Eighty-three percent (83%) of developers believe that APIs are widely considered open to be used and reused.

  • Ninety-seven percent (97%) of all developers feel that granting copyrights to APIs, which could result in licensing and other restrictions, would disrupt the app industry; 75% feel it would be a "major" disruption.

  • Ninety percent (90%) of developers are concerned that the ruling would upend the long- standing rules for APIs, creating uncertainty on how existing apps and products that interact with common programming across platforms would perform while slowing the development of new products.

  • Ninety-one (91%) of respondents are concerned that developers will face higher costs from both owners of copyrighted APIs as well as the platforms they work with, resulting in higher expenses, increased barriers to entry, fewer opportunities, and ultimately companies going out of business.

  • Eighty-six percent (86%) are concerned that developers will be locked-in to just a few languages due to the costs of licenses, stunting innovation and interoperability even as the world becomes more mobile and connected.

According to the survey, developers are nearly unanimous in their assessment of the critical role of APIs and maintaining their freedom to use and reuse them in building products. Results also show that developers believe that upending the status quo would be disruptive to them and the industry as a whole, with major concerns over the consequences. Responding developers also indicated that such a disruption would harm innovation and growth.

Google recently petitioned the Supreme Court of the United States to review the long-running copyright dispute with Oracle over the use of software interfaces. The Developers Alliance has submitted a brief detailing its research. Amicus briefs are due February 25.


About The Developers Alliance

The Developers Alliance is the world’s leading advocate for software developers and the companies invested in their success. Alliance members include industry leaders in consumer, enterprise, industrial, and emerging software development, and a global network of more than 70,000 developers.


Dakota Graves

Communications Manager