Navigating The Rocky Shoals Of Software Copyrights


Originally published in Chapter 17 of the State Bar of Texas - Advanced Intellectual Property Law.


I. Introduction

II. In Which Our Hero is Dashed on the Rocky Shoals of Software Coypright

A. The dream case walks through your door

B. What are the rocky shoals?

III. Software Programming for Dummies and Lawyers

A. Computers are stupid, but they’re really good at repetition

B. Most programs are written in high-level languages.

C. Procedures encapsulate complexity.

D. Libraries let you use other people’s code.

E. Application Programming Interfaces are the bridge between libraries and new code.

F. Programs can be statically or dynamically linked.

IV. Google’s Braving of the Shoals in Oracle v. Google

A. Google wanted Java for Android

B. Oracle’s sued over 37 Java packages.

C. The jury found that Google copied Java’s APIs.

D. The Court held that APIs are not protectable.

E. Oracle affects Android’s “scrubbed” Linux header files.

F. A cautionary tale about programmers’ utility libraries.

V. Non-Literal Copying in Other Cases

A. Creative structure and sequence in Whelan Associates.

B. Abstraction-Filtration-Comparison in Altai.

C. Interoperability and fair use in Sega v. Accolade

D. Command hierarchies in Lotus v. Borland

VI. The Rocky Shoals of “Free” Software

A. “Free” is not a sticker price

B. A brief introduction to hardware drivers

C. Dynamic linking of proprietary drivers in Linux is controversial

D. Transitory modifications are not derivative works in Galoob I and Galoob II

E. Who’s going to sue over violating open source licenses?

VII. Conclusion

Please see full chapter below for more information.

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DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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