Should Softwares be Protected under the Copyright Infringement Law?

In May 2014, the US Federal Court overturned the 2012 ruling that Oracle was not entitled to Copyright Protection in a lawsuit against Google as the latter is accused of infringing on the copyright of Java, a collection of programming technologies owned by Oracle. Google’s Lawyers argued that such technologies don’t deserve the same kind of Protection given to other creative works such as novels and artworks. This definitely raises some questions as to where the line is when it comes to the protection given to programmers, and whether or not a software is considered a “creative work”.

 

Copyright Laws aim to protect intellectual properties, applicable to any representation of creative work. So are we to assume that when an individual comes up with an idea, he is entitled to the rights to that, or is it only when it is considered a “creative work”?  It is not hard to see that there are definitely gray areas when it comes to copyright. Especially since laws do not necessarily cover copyright for Softwares. Hence we cannot blame Google for raising this as their defence, since the law itself does not clearly state where the line is drawn. Google’s intentions aside, the ambiguity of the written law can provide loopholes and can give them an acceptable defence in the court of law, proven by the 2012 ruling.

 

However, one of the main aims of establishing copyright laws in the first place is to encourage people to create and give them an incentive to share their creations with the world. Hence, it is appropriate to give softwares the necessary protection it deserves since programmers might be deterred by their fear that another person or individual might steal their creation. Also, a software can easily be considered a “creative work” as it is inspired by ideas and a spark of imagination, therefore would not have been possible without the existence of creativity. Also, it can be argued that Google’s Lawyers’ argument is invalid hence making the 2012 ruling invalid as Copyright protects intellectual properties and the main idea behind a creation. Thus, it is safe to say that Oracle deserves to win the case and the ruling should be applicable any following cases involving the infringement of Copyright.

 

In a local context, the Copyright Infringement Law was amended in 2005 to include any willful infringement of Copyright for commercial gain, hence if the Google vs. Oracle case was adapted to a Singapore context, Oracle would have won in the first place. This is of course useful for potential programmers, giving them more incentive to work hard and create something that would benefit a lot of other people. This indeed proves that creativity and hard work is valued in this case. However, this does not mean that the law in Singapore is clear-cut. This is because “willful infringement” hinges on the proof of intention, the plaintiff, be it an individual or the company has the burden of proof, and how does one prove someone’s intention to steal or infringe. Moreover, even when the defendant gains monetarily from the “stolen” software, it is difficult to prove that they intended to do so in the first place. Therefore, this once again shows that there are loopholes even with the amended law.

 

In conclusion, Softwares should definitely be protected by infringement laws, and it should be stated as clearly as possible, making sure that there are no possible ways to get around it. This will then incentivise programmers to continue thinking and creating softwares that will eventually benefit most of us. Moreover, laws that protect softwares will also ensure that their efforts are not taken for granted and their intellectual properties are secured.

Kendall,Brent., Ovide,Shira., 2014, “Oracle Wins Ruling in Case Against Google Over Jave” (Retrieved from: http://www.wsj.com/articles/court-says-oracle-software-code-entitled-to-copyright-protection-1399652818)

 

2006, “Singapore Company Found Guilty for Unlicensed Software Use”

(Retrieved from: http://www.hardwarezone.com/news/view.php?id=4413)

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One thought on “Should Softwares be Protected under the Copyright Infringement Law?

  1. Hi Rashyr,

    I think the most important thing to note here is that Oracle was looking to sue Google for a very specific infringement: i.e. patent infringement on the use of Java code (which was thrown out because Java is freely available for use) and a copyright claim on the use of APIs (which was also thrown out). Essentially, Oracle was making claims against Google for things that were “not copyrightable” (http://www.zdnet.com/article/judge-hands-another-win-to-google-rules-37-apis-not-copyrightable/). King (in the ZDNet article above) highlights a particularly relevant part of the ruling for Oracle v. Google:

    So long as the specific code used to implement a method is different, anyone is free under the Copyright Act to write his or her own code to carry out exactly the same function or specification of any methods used in the Java API. It does not matter that the declaration or method header lines are identical.

    Under the rules of Java, they must be identical to declare a method specifying the same functionality — even when the implementation is different. When there is only one way to express an idea or function, then everyone is free to do so and no one can monopolize that expression. And, while the Android method and class names could have been different from the names of their counterparts in Java and still have worked, copyright protection never extends to names or short phrases as a matter of law.

    The use of a coding language without permission falls under patent infringement (and not copyright), but this is usually not enforced because you would want to have people use your code for as many things as possible, and money is made off the tools and services built around the language but not the language itself (it’s like selling a car for cheap, and then making money off servicing and maintenance charges).

    Like

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