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[FSF] FSF responds to Oracle v. Google and the threat of software patent

Subject: [FSF] FSF responds to Oracle v. Google and the threat of software patents
From: Peter Brown <>
Date: Wed, 08 Sep 2010 16:22:47 -0400
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FSF responds to Oracle v. Google and the threat of software patents

As you likely heard on any number of news sites, Oracle has filed suit
against Google, claiming that Android infringes some of its Java-related
copyrights and patents. Too little information is available about the
copyright infringement claim to say much about it yet; we expect we'll
learn more as the case proceeds. But nobody deserves to be the victim of
software patent aggression, and Oracle is wrong to use its patents to
attack Android.

Though it took longer than we would've liked, Sun Microsystems
ultimately did the right thing by the free software community when it
released Java under the GPL in 2006. We welcomed that news when it was
announced; Java had long been a popular programming language, and we
were hopeful that the change would make it a language with first-class
support in the free software community.

Now Oracle's lawsuit threatens to undo all the good will that has been
built up in the years since. Programmers will justifiably steer clear of
Java when they stand to be sued if they use it in some way that Oracle
doesn't like. One of the great benefits of free software is that it
allows programs to be combined in ways that none of the original
developers would've anticipated, to create something new and exciting.
Oracle is signaling to the world that they intend to limit everyone's
ability to do this with Java, and that's unjustifiable.

Unfortunately, Google didn't seem particularly concerned about this
problem until after the suit was filed. The company still has not taken
any clear position or action against software patents
<>. And they could have avoided all this
by building Android on top of IcedTea
<>, a GPL-covered Java
implementation based on Sun's original code, instead of an independent
implementation under the Apache License. The GPL is designed to protect
everyone's freedom—from each individual user up to the largest
corporations—and it could've provided a strong defense against Oracle's
attacks. It's sad to see that Google apparently shunned those
protections in order to make proprietary software development easier on

But none of that excuses Oracle's behavior. An aggressive infringement
suit over software patents is a clear attack against someone's freedom
to use, share, modify, and redistribute software—freedoms that everyone
should always have. Oracle now seeks to take these rights away, not just
from Google, but from all Android users.

Ultimately, the decision about how to respond rests primarily with
Google; they're the party named as the defendant in the suit. The FSF
encourages Google to fight Oracle's claims, and take a principled stand
against all software patents.

How you can help:

    * We are collecting information about the case, including
information about prior art that could be used to attack the patents, on
the End Software Patents wiki
<,_USA%29>. This could
be useful not only for Google's case, but also for other parties that
Oracle might sue in the future. If you have new information to add to
that page, we'd be happy to have your contribution.

    * Oracle was previously opposed to software patents
<>. That the company is
now using patents as its primary weapon to attack competitors is a
stunning reversal of that position. Write to Larry Ellison
<> and respectfully ask him why Oracle is
attacking free software with software patents. You can remind him about
the statements Oracle made in 1994, like this one:

    "Patent law provides to inventors an exclusive right to new
technology in return for publication of the technology. This is not
appropriate for industries such as software development in which
innovations occur rapidly, can be made without a substantial capital
investment, and tend to be creative combinations of previously-known

Oracle once claimed that it only sought software patents for defensive
purposes. Now it is using them to proactively attack free software. It's
not the first company to make this about-face, and unfortunately it
probably won't be the last. Today Google claims they need software
patents for defensive purposes, but the reality is that programmers will
only truly be safe from software patents when everybody is forced to

Join the End Software Patents mailing list
<> to
keep up-to-date on software patent news and what you can do to help.

Watch and help spread the film Patent Absurdity

For more information, contact:

Brett Smith
License Compliance Engineer
Free Software Foundation
+1 (617) 542 5942 x18

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