copyrightable APIs? (was RE: namespace protection compa

Chloe Hoffman chloehoffman at
Fri Apr 20 19:32:24 UTC 2001

>From: "Forrest J Cavalier III" Reply-To: forrest at To: 
>license-discuss at CC: forrest at Subject: Re: 
>copyrightable APIs? (was RE: namespace protection compa Date: Fri, 20 Apr 
>2001 15:05:12 -0400
>"Chloe Hoffman" wrote
> > pages.
I think the real question is not whether an API is copyrightable
> > but how an API is infringed and what is a derivative work of an > API.
>You admit that some parts of the API would not qualify as original.

I don't believe that's what I said. I believe I said, with respect to U.S. 
law, that some parts may not qualify - just like some parts of any other 
work may not qualify - for copyright protection according to certain 
well-known doctrines.

>Infringement would therefore depend on what portions of the API are 
>"original enough" to qualify under copyright law.

Just like any other work.

>These APIs get published so that they can be used.

To me that's not a statement against copyrightability - rather an issue of 

>Once the software is written that provides the API, it becomes a physical 
>object which can be studied.

Just as once a story is written or a house is built. It does not necessarily 
mean the story or design of the house can be infringed.

>It is pretty hard to argue that the facts of that physical object, 
>including the exported interface, can never be expressed without infringing 

As I suggested, infringement I think is the nub of the question - not 
copyrightability. In my view, there is certainly a significant difference 
from an infringement perspective, assuming no express or implied license or 
other kind of estoppel, between writing a program accessing an interface and 
implementing a set of APIs (such as the Java API) - in my mind the former 
being much further away from infringement than the latter.

>(P.S. To Chloe Hoffman: If you must use MIME, can you at least post in 
>text/plain? Thanks!)

I hope that's fixed. Sorry.
Get your FREE download of MSN Explorer at

More information about the License-discuss mailing list