Who's Right In Android Copyright Spat?

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Earlier today, we published a story based on a blog post from intellectual property lawyer activist Florian Mueller, who said he’d found evidence that somebody had taken a bunch of files from Java, changed the licence on them, and put them into an Android source code repository using the new licence.A couple folks with more of a programming background, including ZDNet’s Ed Burnette and Ars Technica’s Ryan Paul, looked at the same files and reached a different conclusion. Yes, they were copied from Java. But they were only test files, were clearly uploaded by accident, and aren’t actually used by Android in any capacity. In fact, they probably don’t even ship with any Android devices.

Who’s right? Engadget has a horse in the race because Burnette called them out by name for publishing the original story, and they point out that the geeks are technically correct. But from a legal perspective it may not matter. Oracle owns the code. Somebody put it into a Google code base and changed it in a way that Oracle objected to, without Oracle’s permission. That may be all a judge needs to issue summary judgment FOR Oracle in the case. 

This is why courts allow subject matter experts to testify in complicated cases. And why journalists use words like “apparently” and “alleged” when covering undecided legal disputes.

Update: The original version of this post mischaracterized Florian Mueller as a lawyer. He’s not.

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