8 lines of code. 8 lines. Not very much code at all, really. But those 8 lines could lead to a billion dollars in fines against Google today as we await an expected verdict in the Oracle vs. Google case today. Oracle is suing Google because it claims there is code in Google’s Android software that mimics Oracle’s Java Application Programming Interface (API). If it’s found to have been copied without permission, hell to pay.
And it wouldn’t just be Google paying it. Commonly accepted practices when it comes to APIs is that you can’t directly copy code but you can grab, tinker with, modify what’s out there already.
Wired says this ruling, if it goes Oracle’s way, could completely transform the way cloud computing works:
So if the court finds that APIs are copyrightable, it could have major implications for any software that uses APIs without explicit permission — Linux for example. But it could affect things in the cloud, where there are several efforts to clone Amazon’s Web Services APIs.
“If APIs can be copy-protected, that would be incredibly destructive to the internet as a whole for so many different reasons,” says George Reese, Chief Technology Officer with enStratus Networks, a seller of cloud management services. “But with respect to cloud, in particular, it would put any company that has implemented the Amazon APIs at risk unless they have some kind of agreement with Amazon on those APIs.”