The issue has always been interoperability

James Gosling on Oracle vs Google – ‘issue has always been interoperability’

Chris Mayer

As the jury deliberate their verdict for the copyright portion of the trial, the father of Java reiterates his stance on the whole affair, offering further intriguing insight

At the time of writing, there’s still no decision in the copyright phase of Oracle’s lawsuit against Google over the use of Java in their Android platform, and to be frank, it’s quite good to take reflection upon what’s happened so far.

One man who will be looking on intriguingly is James Gosling, instrumental in the creation of Java. His ties with, and opinions on both companies are well documented, and this has caused some inaccurate reporting in the media over how he sees the case. Most notably, his comment ‘Google totally slimed Sun’ caused murmurings throughout the blogosphere that Gosling was anti-Google.

Hesistantly realising that it was still an ongoing court case and that he would likely appear at some point in said case, Gosling took to his blog to clear up the matter saying:

My “Google totally slimed Sun” comment was a personal moral opinion. Not my guess at a legal result, or a legal opinion at all – I am not a lawyer and would never pretend to be.

Interestingly, Gosling gave his views on the global ‘broken’ patent system:

I certainly think that the patent system is broken, but the system is what it is. The original basic theory makes sense to me, but what it’s evolved into doesn’t. At Sun we had a near death experience after losing a case with IBM, after that we realized we had to play the game, no matter how bogus.

The wide implications of Oracle winning the copyright case are pretty disturbing. But that’s a practical opinion. How it will go in the legal system is anyone’s guess. It extends far beyond Oracle: developers everywhere use APIs defined by many other entities. I hate to think of what an emerging “copyright troll” industry might be.

In the words of The Wire’s Omar Little, ‘it’s all in the game’, apparently. The copyright verdict is still up in the air, but Oracle winning could have wide-reaching ramifications, even outside of this case. But Gosling thinks that mentions of Oracle causing ‘industrial meltdown’ is slightly hyperbolic, saying:

Despite my well-known opinions on Oracle, they wouldn’t do any of the nightmare scenarios that some have imagined: such a meltdown would not be in their own self interest. 

Whilst some may indeed hold Oracle as Public Enemy No.1, their tenure as Java stewards has by and large been a good one, despite initial tension and a backlash before they set down to work.

Finally Gosling decreed that the issue at the centre of the case is ‘interoperability’, writing:

It’s one of the major aspects that has made the Java community thrive. The freedom of developers to expect their programs to work has always been at tension with the freedom of platform providers to do whatever they please. At Sun, we always sided with developers.

The Java patents were used by Sun as a tool to enforce interoperability: follow the spec, you can use them for free. A good result for developers derived from a bogus patent system.

Gosling doesn’t hold back on lambasting the patent system and of course, is a champion for developers. His words add brevity and clarity to a lot of the mudslinging appearing from both sides in the court, and he can be considered fairly neutral in the matter, in the sense he doesn’t favour either. There will always be clashes between developers and vendors – both have a vested interest in seeing a language improve. It’s a fine line to walk though without angering them all.

The entire post by Gosling can be found here – where you’ll also find people disagreeing with his stance. It wouldn’t be Java otherwise would it? This case has certainly caused polarity in opinions.

Back to the case, we might hear a verdict sooner rather than later.

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