Two bees make an eagle. US Judge says API not copyrightable

In Italian "api" means "bees" (plural). API in computer science means "Application Programming Interfaces", which are bits of code in a computer program that expose functions and calls to other computer programs so that they can interact. For instance, a platform (say, Gnome or MS Windows) can expose a function to call upon a printing dialog, and all application running on it only needs to invoke that function and an interaction can happen, so the application can print. The internals of the same API can be reimplemented many times without changing the outward facing interfaces, so that the applications written against them remain workable ‒ actually this happens on a regular basis.

A Federal Judge for the Northern District of California has ruled that the source code that declare a method to invoke the same function as in the API (thus representing the outward facing part) is not subject to copyright. This follows a quasi identical ruling of the European Court of Justice in the SAS case [Case C‑406/10].

Verdict in Oracle v. Google, what it says

Update: see the comment on the final judgment on the copyright protection of the API.

There has been a lot of noise in some areas of the Internet around what to make of the verdict that the jury has taken in the Oracle v. Google case.

For the benefit of the readers, here the questions and what the jury has answered. For Europeans, it is very odd to see a jury to decide in matters that are strongly legal in nature, but that's how it goes up there. Bear in mind, though, that the jury is only responsible for the assessment of the facts, it's up to the judge to have a final say about the law.

Also, bear in mind that the judge has instructed the jury to decide as if the API (Application Programming Interfaces) are a copyright subject, but that is just a speculative statement, the matter will be settled by the judge in its final decision.

Concorrenza nel mercato legale: propongo l'ATP (Associazione Temporanea di Professionisti)

Scrivo alla vigilia di uno sciopero (astensione dalle udienze) indetto dagli Avvocati per protestare contro una legislazione che favorisce la concorrenza, la quale interviene in modo scomposto, ma a mio parere sostanzialmente nella giusta direzione, sui servizi legali. Ma se si parla di concorrenza nei servizi professionali, ci sarebbe una modifica a costo zero o quasi, che consentirebbe l'aggregazione di professionisti su base non associativa, l'Associazione Temporanea tra Professionisti.

A modest proposal to give Free Software equal legal standing as proprietary.

Note: Updated to include lock-in and tying. Some changes on moral rights to clarify that

Laws are more often than not an annoyance, despite their aim to improve the legal framework in any given field. Free Software (AKA "Open Source") has thrived despite the absence of any legal recognition by the law, if not in spite of rules that clearly are shaped around proprietary software. In many jurisdictions it has passed the enforceability test. So, no laws seem necessary to make it work. Yet, can some legal principle be put forward, and included in some laws, to help?

"If it works don't fix it", so goes the common saying. But if it works now doesn't mean it will work forever. It is nevertheless upon lawyers, and legislators alike, to foresee problems ahead of their actual happening, and brace for the potential harmful event. But any laws that would regulate Free Software would likely harm some parts of it, and change the games to favor one kind over another, or impose conditions that are not welcome or productive – something that legislator, even with the best intentions, often do – and in general could cause as many troubles as they would produce benefit. "Primum non nocere" is the paradigm for medical actions, even though drugs by definition only produce a net benefit by inflicting some limited damage. Is there a medicament that has entirely good effects without any negative ones? Arguably there is not. But with laws we can achieve something closer to this optimal benefit, which economists know as "Pareto Efficiency".

So this is a call for Pareto Efficient Laws, and Pareto optimal only laws.

Free Software in Korea

me, giving a speech
Me at 2011 Korea FOSS Con

Recently the Koss (Korean Open Source Software) group has organized the first Korean Free Software conference in Seoul, in cooperation with NIPA, the governmental agency for the promotion of Information Technology industry. FSFE contributed to the organization and I, as well as a few other people, have been invited to present our views at the conference.

My speech started like "I knew I should not come to teach, but to learn, and indeed my anticipation was correct". Korea seems to have a lot to teach us. They are coming from behind, but have covered great length, and show some impressive numbers of adoption. At least they have a strategy and an agenda by which public authorities shall adopt Free Software.

Koss conference in Korea

On November 17 I will fly over to Korea to attend and speak at what seems the largest Free Software event so far in the country, under the auspices of the Korean Government, through the National IT Industry Promotion Agency (NIPA), and with the sponsoring also of the FSFE.

Dennis Ritchie

In memoriam of Dennis MacAlistair Ritchie, September 9, 1941 — October 8/9, 2011

Image from Wikipedia (in public domain)

While the World (and I) was all concentrating on the departure of Steve Jobs, a man whose achievements have had an even greater impact on today's world is with us no more. Dennis MacAlistair Ritchie left us on 8 October 2011. It is sad, very sad, that all major press reported the two passing aways with so starkingly different emphasis. The C programming language is the foundation of all modern operating systems, and virtually of all commonly used applications and programming languages. But the reality distortion field is still on.