Today, Red Hat filed an amicus brief(a “friend of the court” brief) asking the U.S. Supreme Court to overturn the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit decision in Oracle v. Google. The lower court incorrectly extended copyright protection to software interfaces. If left uncorrected, the lower court rulings could harm software compatibility and interoperability and have a chilling effect on the innovation represented by the open source community.
As the world’s largest developer of enterprise open source software solutions, Red Hat’s customers include more than 90% of the Fortune 500. Using a community-powered approach to software development, Red Hat has developed reliable, high-performing, enterprise-quality cloud, middleware, storage, and virtualization technologies.
Red Hat also has a long and extensive history of developing software written in Java as well as implementations of the Java programming language. Red Hat’s significant involvement with Java development over the last 20 years has included extensive contributions to OpenJDK, an open source implementation of the Java platform, and the development of Red Hat Middleware, a suite of Java-based middleware solutions to build, integrate, automate and deploy enterprise applications.
As an open source leader, Red Hat has a stake in the consistent and correct determination of the scope of copyright protection that applies to interfaces of computer programs, including the Java platform interface at stake in this case. Open source software development relies on the availability of and unencumbered access to software interfaces, including products that are compatible with or interoperate with other computer products, platforms, and services.
The brief, which was filed jointly with IBM, makes clear that, “Computer interfaces are not copyrightable. That simple, yet powerful principle has been a cornerstone of technological and economic growth for over sixty years. When published (as has been common industry practice for over three decades) or lawfully reverse engineered, they have spurred innovation through competition, increased productivity and economic efficiency, and connected the world in a way that has benefited commercial enterprises and consumers alike.”
“The Federal Circuit’s unduly narrow construction of 17 U.S.C. § 102(b) is harmful to progress, competition, and innovation in the field of software development,” Red Hat stated in the brief. “IBM and Red Hat urge the Court to reverse the decision below on the basis that 17 U.S.C. § 102(b) excludes software interfaces from copyright protection.”
Oral argument has not been scheduled yet. The case is expected to be heard by the Court in the spring.