Why Oracle v Google is a pivotal moment for APIs

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One of the longest and most contentious cases between two tech companies started in 2010 when Oracle sued Google for using 37 of its Java API packages without paying licensing fees. The case dealt with whether the creation of Google’s Android platform infringed on copyright laws by using some of Oracle’s Java APIs. Last month, the verdict was handed down that Google did not violate copyright laws and that use of Java APIs to build Android construed “fair use”.

If the verdict had been in Oracle’s favor, it would set a difficult precedent for the treatment of APIs when developing software. Developers might be intimidated to use APIs for fear of copyright issues, and it might be tough for companies to innovate since APIs are critical components for building great experiences and exciting new products and services.

What this case demonstrates is how valuable, powerful, and important APIs are. However, this case is not just about Java and Android alone. Uri Sarid, our CTO, said that this case “affects the global economy [because] the ruling today basically said, yes, [using APIs] is fair use. That, I think, is a victory, and we’re definitely very happy about that.” In other words, developers shouldn’t be afraid to use publicly available APIs to create apps or software or mobile platforms; APIs are meant to be used to build new things and should be treated as tools to enable innovation.

A lot of the applications that we use in business and in our personal lives are built with the help of public APIs. APIs are not limited to just building apps; for example, retailers that run e-commerce stores depend on reusable APIs so they can spend time and resources to grow the company instead of developing shopping carts, shipping, and payments from scratch. Uri notes that APIs move the needle for technological innovations: “there’s a chilling effect if your building block can’t talk to mine,” he says, because developers will have to be more cautious before using APIs. They may start developing siloed apps rather than reusing public APIs, which will negate the time savings that APIs offer.

We know that the use of APIs in building new and innovative enterprise experiences can have extraordinary outcomes.  If you’d like to learn more about how APIs are shaping the future of business, take a look at our whitepaper for more details and real-world use cases.


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