Is inherited class a derivative work?

Chloe Hoffman chloehoffman at
Wed Oct 24 14:27:42 UTC 2001

This is not legal advice. No attorney-client relationship is established. 
etc etc

>From: "Michael Beck" <mbeck1 at>
>Reply-To: <mbeck1 at>
>To: <license-discuss at>
>Subject: RE: Is inherited class a derivative work?
>Date: Wed, 24 Oct 2001 05:45:38 -0400


>Of course, by using the "fair use" doctrine, you could use API to create an
>independent (cleanroom) implementation. That's what seems to be happening 
>OpenSource cleanroom implementations of Java API.

In the case of Java, there seems to be no need to rely on "fair use". The 
following is from, e.g., the JDK 1.1 documentation:

Sun Microsystems, Inc. (SUN) hereby grants to you a fully-paid, 
nonexclusive, nontransferable, perpetual, worldwide limited license (without 
the right to sublicense) under SUN's intellectual property rights that are 
essential to practice this specification. This license allows and is limited 
to the creation and distribution of clean room implementations of this 
specification that (i) include a complete implementation of the current 
version of this specification without subsetting or supersetting, (ii) 
implement all the interfaces and functionality of the standard java.* 
packages as defined by SUN, without subsetting or supersetting, (iii) do not 
add any additional packages, classes or methods to the java.* packages (iv) 
pass all test suites relating to the most recent published version of this 
specification that are available from SUN six (6) months prior to any beta 
release of the clean room implementation or upgrade thereto, (v) do not 
derive from SUN source code or binary materials, and (vi) do not include any 
SUN binary materials without an appropriate and separate license from SUN.

Also, keep in mind that the meaning of "fair use" is not internationally 
defined. The U.S. probably has the most generous "fair use" doctrine. Most 
other countries, especially European countries, have very narrow "fair 
dealing" provisions which are in most cases very limited e.g. use (copying, 
preparing derivative works, etc.) for news reporting, criticism and 
research. Further, "fair use" in the U.S. is an extremely fact specific 
inquiry - there are pretty much no absolutes.

>However, as indicated in another thread here, Sun in its license indicates 
>it has control over changes to the API  by stating that any changes to the 
>have to be published. Since nobody challenged it so far, it seems that 
>might be something to Sun's claim.

There may be something to Sun's claim if looked at from the implementation 
view point. A set of APIs can be viewed as a compilation. Creating an 
implementation that incorporates that compilation (and thus exposes that set 
of APIs) may require a license or other permission.

> > > > APIs and even data base schemata (what you get after executing a
> > > > sequence of SQL create table statements) are explicitly
> > noted as: not
> > > > copyright able, not patent able, not trademark able.
> > >
> > > That's interesting. Can you provide any references to it?
> > (in English or
> > > German). Is it German law, or EU?
> > >
> > > Thanks,
> > >
> > > Michael
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