Dozens of computer scientists are urging the Supreme Court to overturn a May federal appeals court decision that said application programming interfaces (APIs) are subject to copyright protections.
The computer scientists, ranging from Vinton “Vint” Cerf—a father of the Internet—to Python creator Guido van Rossum, want the nation’s high court to reverse the appellate ruling that said Oracle’s Java API’s were copyrightable:
The Federal Circuit’s decision poses a significant threat to the technology sector and to the public. If it is allowed to stand, Oracle and others will have an unprecedented and dangerous power over the future of innovation. API creators would have veto rights over any developer who wants to create a compatible program—regardless of whether she copies any literal code from the original API implementation. That, in turn, would upset the settled business practices that have enabled the American computer industry to flourish, and choke off many of the system’s benefits to consumers. [PDF]
The scientists are represented by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, which describes APIs as “specifications that allow programs to communicate with each other. So when you type a letter in a word processor, and hit the print command, you are using an API that lets the word processor talk to the printer driver, even though they were written by different people.”
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