The central question around the case was whether Java’s copied APIs (that is, the software’s interface) are an original work of authorship that is copyrightable.
Relevant provisions of the USA law (Section 102(b) of the 1976 Copyright Act), are almost identical to the provisions of our Law on Copyright and Related Rights (Article 6, Paragraph 1). Namely, “ideas, procedures, processes, systems, methods of work, concepts, principles and discoveries, no matter the form in which they are described, explained, illustrated, or contained in such work, are not copyrightable”.
Thus, it is crucial to answer whether Java’s API copied by Google belongs to the cited norm, in which case, the copied item is not copyrightable, and thus, no copyright infringement has occurred.
Even though it seems like a simple matter clearly prescribed by the Law, both parties have provided compelling arguments why Java’s APIs can or cannot be considered a method of work that is not copyrightable.
The matter becomes even more complex when we consider the fact that Java is a programming language used to “write” the program. Java is not only an expression or form, but it can provide a function (in a technical sense). Precisely this led to the question: how far does the literary expression (form) reach, which is subject to copyright, and what exactly from that expression has the sole purpose of allowing the functioning of a particular system, which cannot be subject to copyright. Additionally, can the functionality of declaration and its expression (form) be separated at all? The answer is no if the functionality can be reached by using the correct expression (form) of Java’s APIs. Although it is not indisputable that the code’s declaration used will provide the expected results, it is justified that the court themselves have asked the question: why hasn’t Google written a completely new code themselves, including the code’s declaration which would eventually, produce the same results.
It is interesting to note that in the American Committee for Interoperable Systems’ submission from the 90s, whose members are Oracle and their predecessor, Sun Microsystems, it was highlighted that copyright to API shouldn’t be used in order to stop the creation of interoperable programs . Nevertheless, a whole decade was marked by Oracle trying to stop interoperability in this case. According to one doctrine (the so-called merger doctrine), if an idea or functionality can be expressed in one way only, that expression cannot be subject to copyright, if that would imply copyright of that idea, i.e., its functionality. This is directly related to Java’s copied parts (API, i.e., declaration and organizational structure) which precisely because of Java’s rules have to be expressed in only one way. Google heavily relies on this doctrine, as expected. Of course, Oracle has a different argument, claiming that an idea can be expressed in many ways, thus giving no excuse for copying.