Supreme Court missed opportunity to clarify copyright law in API case
WASHINGTON (June 29, 2015) – The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision earlier today not to hear arguments in Google Inc. v. Oracle America Inc. represents a missed opportunity to clarify copyright law, according the R Street Institute.
“The Supreme Court has taken the wrong path today in denying certiorari in the Oracle case, which centers on whether application programming interfaces (APIs) should be protectable as copyrighted works under the Copyright Act,” said Mike Godwin, R Street’s general counsel and director of innovation policy. “While the Federal Circuit held that APIs can be copyrightable, we have taken the opposite view: that APIs are more like functional descriptions, like the recipe for your favorite dish, than they are the kind of creative expression that copyright law is designed to protect.”
The case has been remanded to the district court, which will determine whether “fair use” or other defenses may apply in favor in Google’s favor, Godwin said.
“It’s the nature of such legal defenses that, even if Google wins those arguments, the resulting decisions may not provide the kind of broad clarity we would hope to see in copyright cases involving primarily functional or specifications-oriented aspects of programming code,” he added. “In the long term, we hope the federal courts, perhaps with the help of Congress, strike a balance in favor of more specific, creativity-oriented copyright protection.”