November 2012

Copyrightability of APIs: a small skirmish in a much larger war

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is launching a new effort ("No Copyright on APIs: Help Us Make the Case") to fight the copyrightability of APIs at the appellate level, presumably as an amicus brief participant in the Oracle v. Google appeal.

My question is, what's the point of fighting copyrightability of APIs if those same APIs can be readily protected by specification licenses or terms of use? The Amazon Web Services API is freely available because Amazon's terms say so. If Amazon decided that certain use of the API is no longer authorized (say, in order to lock out competitors), Amazon need only change the terms.  At a minimum, Amazon has a contract claim against violators, perhaps not as powerful as a copyright infringement claim, but a claim nonetheless and sufficiently chilling.

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