In Oracle v. Google, a Nerd Subculture Is on Trial

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Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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18 Responses

  1. Avatar dragonfrog says:

    The decision that APIs are copyrightable really was an awful one.

    Oracle demanding that Google make its own APIs really would be like Volkswagen demanding that Ford make its own arrangement of cabin controls – only VW cars are allowed to have the gas pedal on the right, brake in the middle, and clutch on the left.

    And also typically dreadful on Oracle’s part. Things were never going to go well after they bought Sun.Report

  2. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    This isn’t the first time that a group complained about the majority making laws and policy about something that they don’t understand. Sometimes the complaints of the group are well justified. You see this especially with minority groups. Other times, the majority making law or policy on something that it does not quite understand is the price of democracy.Report

    • Avatar Damon says:

      “Other times, the majority making law or policy on something that it does not quite understand is the price of democracy.”

      Really, so you accept the fact that ignorant politicians and judges just do what ever the hell they want in a vast expanse of ignorance rather than actually being educated and understanding the ramifications of their laws/rulings? That’s the price of democracy? I demand and deserve better from my employees.Report

  3. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    “There’s one big thing on their minds: they are really, really worried that the jury does not understand nerd shit.”

    This is pretty much the technologist’s attitude toward everything. “If only I can get you to understand my position then you’ll see for yourself that it’s clearly correct!”

    In fact, that’s pretty much how angry arguments on the Internet go. “you only disagree because you don’t understand! WHY DO YOU REFUSE TO UNDERSTAND?!”Report

    • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

      To be fair, while it’s an unreasonable position to take on everything, they might have a point when it comes to technology specifically. Kind of like how lawyers get all bitchy when people who don’t understand the law give crazy legal advice. Dismissing it with a wave of the hand and a, “Lawyers are such know-it-alls,” misses a critical piece of the puzzle.Report

  4. Avatar DensityDuck says:

    “Google’s nerd witnesses are hamstrung on their ability to explain the motivations behind their actions, because…”

    …because in most cases their actions were based on “ha ha this is mildly amusing right in this moment”. They did not write code with the idea that someday they might have to get on a witness stand and explain to a packed courtroom why a key variable had been named “poopybutt”.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg says:

      I was once assigned the task of bowdlerizing the source code for a major database management system. A surprisingly large percentage of the hits from a search for naughty words came from some Shakespeare plays that had been included as…I forget why, exactly. Sample text for use in tutorials for the full text search feature, or something like that.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        A Bandolier of Carrots!Report

      • The first time I worked on an open source project, I had to keep reminding my co-workers not to put obscenities in comments.Report

        • Avatar Kimmi says:

          When Adobe breaks all known specifications simply to put its name in the header… about a hundred times…

          (what’s fun is what people write about “this is special code because Adobe doesn’t think it needs to follow rules” when they aren’t allowed to swear).Report

        • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

          My favorite pop-up installation error of all time was something like, “DirectX 7 needs to be installed, dumbass.” I’m sure it was a placeholder for something else.

          Procedures are important.Report

  5. Avatar Brent F says:

    As I see it, the essential problem is that software never should have fallen under copyright (or patent) law in the first place, instead a novel intellectual property format should have been built to deal with it.

    Unfortunately, previous generations weren’t particularly wise to the issues, so we ended up with a body of law intended to handle book publishing being responsible for the digital media industry. This has not worked out so well.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck says:

      It hasn’t worked out well because of people’s childish attitude towards it. (Which isn’t surprising, as programmers affect a childish attitude towards most things.)

      The fundamental argument is “I can’t see it so the rules don’t apply”.Report

      • Avatar Kimmi says:

        At some point we’re going to have to develop some actionable rules for intelligent machines.

        Work In ProgressReport

      • Avatar Brent F says:

        That’s nowhere even close to what the issues are. The basic problem is that 19th century IP law never concieved that language would be used to build functional things. Copyright is a dumb way to protect IP in software. Patents are also a dumb way to protect IP in software. But because those were the rules that existed, software fell under them instead of building something functional to handle the new thing.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck says:

          “The basic problem is that 19th century IP law never concieved that language would be used to build functional things.”

          dude they had patents in the 19th century. You are correct that they did not have microcode, but the idea of “language used to build functional things” was not some bizarre concept that Grace Hopper invented in 1952.

          They had contracts as well, along with stock markets and corporations. The idea of “a purely abstract concept that can nonetheless be treated as property and hold value” has been around for quite long enough.Report