Google v. Oracle: APIs, Fair Use and the Problem of Copyrighting Code

Date(s) - 10/14/2016
12:00 pm - 1:15 pm

Halls of Fame Room

info-head-topJust what kind of code can be copyrighted?

This question was at the heart of Google v. Oracle, a case that considered whether Oracle had a copyright on Java APIs and, if so, whether Google infringed these copyrights for its Android phones. Last spring, a jury unanimously agreed that Google’s use of the Java APIs was fair use, but not before conflicting decisions from a district court and an appeals court on the question of the copyrightable of APIs. Oracle has announced that it will appeal the jury’s decision.

On Friday, October 14 at noon in the Halls of Fame Room in Carroll Hall, the UNC Center for Media Law and Policy will host an interdisciplinary lunch open to faculty and graduate students from across the UNC system to discuss the case with Dr. Owen Astrachan, Professor of the Practice of Computer Science at Duke University.

Dr. Astrachan was an expert witness for Google in the case and argued that the use of the APIs was fair. Astrachan told ArsTechnica that keeping Java’s APIs the same made a lot of sense in the Android operating system, much like how users are accustomed to using Control-P or Command-P as the “print” function on a computer.

“What would happen if all of a sudden, Control-P or Command-P meant ‘Paste’?” Astrachan asked ArsTechnica. “If the API changes, then users of that file menu wouldn’t be able to accomplish their tasks.”

Dr. Astrachan earned his AB degree with distinction in Mathematics from Dartmouth and MAT (Math), MS, and PhD (Computer Science) from Duke. He received an NSF CAREER award in 1997 to incorporate design patterns in undergraduate computer science curricula, an IBM Faculty Award in 2004 to support componentization in both software and curricula, and was one of two inaugural NSF CISE Distinguished Education Fellows in 2007 to revitalize computer science education using case- and problem-based learning. Since 2009 he has been the PI on the CS Principles project, a College Board/NSF project creating a new Advanced Placement course emphasizing the impact and creativity of Computer Science with a new course and exam starting in 2016. Professor Astrachan’s research interests have been built on understanding how best to teach and learn about programming, software design, and computer science in general. Professor Astrachan received Duke’s 1995 Robert B. Cox Distinguished Teaching in Science Award, an Outstanding Instructor Award while teaching on sabbatical at the University of British Columbia in 1998, and Duke’s 2002 Richard K. Lublin award for “ability to engender genuine intellectual excitement, ability to engender curiosity, knowledge of field and ability to communicate that knowledge.”

A free lunch will be served to all who register below by Wednesday, October 12.

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Tagged: Intellectual Property
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