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Google vs Oracle: Resolved in Favor of Open Source

We are pleased to report thatGoogle vs. Oracle*, the landmark copyright case in the US courts about software interoperability, has beenresolved favorably for open source developers. It’s been a long road to get here but it’s something the courts were always going to have to address -- is modern technology best served by the copyright maximalism that has long been promoted by the content industry or should we instead re-examine some of those assumptions to facilitate multi-company platform interoperability? The Supreme Court of the United States did not take on the full scope of the question but did provide some very helpful guidance. 


This was such an important question thatOSI filed anamicus curiae brief with the Supreme Court to advocate on behalf of the open source community.** We filed in support of Google because the position Oracle was taking -- that it’s a copyright infringement to use API’s even when they are being used solely to create interoperability -- would’ve been disastrous for open source. Shared APIs (application programming interfaces) are essential for interoperability and innovation. 


Oracle acquired Sun in early 2010 and took over stewardship of Java. Oracle then sued Google for patent and copyright infringement over the Java code in November of 2010. The patent infringement case was quickly dismissed, leaving only the copyright complaints. This legal battle has been long and drawn out, including two trips to the Court of Appeals and two trips to the Supreme Court. In 2019 the Supreme Court agreed to hear Google’s second appeal about whether API’s are copyrightable and, if copyrightable, whether Google’s copying of the declaring code, but not the implementing code, was a “fair use” as provided for in US copyright law. On April 5th of this year, the Supreme Court sidestepped the issue of copyrightability but did rule that Google's implementation of the Java APIs for the purpose of creating the Android platform is fair use with some guidance of great help in future cases: “where Google reimplemented a user interface taking only what was needed to allow users to put their accrued talents to work in a new and transformative program, Google’s copying of the Sun Java API was a fair use of that material as a matter of law.”


OSI is very pleased that the courts ruled in favor of fair use and provided some guidance on how to determine in what ways the open source community can continue to reimplement APIs as it has done for the last two decades. We look forward to assisting the US courts in their evolving and deepening understanding of open source norms, when new cases that affect developer communities inevitably arise. 


The Wikipedia entry on all the back and forth is exceedingly thorough. Folks who are interested can read the whole Supreme Court ruling, here.


* Both parties to this case (Google and Sun Microsystems renamed Oracle America Inc) have at some point been OSI Sponsors and in taking sides OSI considered the merits of the argument not the merits of the parties.


** For our non-lawyer friends, “Amicus curiae briefs” are filings made by a “friend of the court.” In this case it refers to information offered by a third party that has context about how the ruling will affect parties beyond the named parties.

OSI Response to RMS’s reappointment to the Board of the Free Software Foundation

To fully realize the promise of open source, the Open Source Initiative (OSI) is committed to building an inclusive environment where a diverse community of contributors feel welcome. This is clearly not possible if we include those who have demonstrated a pattern of behavior that is incompatible with these goals.

Richard M. Stallman recently announced that he will be returning to the board of directors of the Free Software Foundation (FSF), a statement that the FSF has not denied. We believe it is inappropriate for Stallman to hold any leadership position in the free and open source software community. If we do not speak out against this, our silence may be misinterpreted as support.

The Open Source Initiative calls upon the Free Software Foundation to hold Stallman responsible for past behavior, remove him from the organization’s leadership and work to address the harm he caused to all those he has excluded: those he considers less worthy, and those he has hurt with his words and actions. We will not participate in any events that include Richard M. Stallman and we cannot collaborate with the Free Software Foundation until Stallman is removed from the organization’s leadership.  

Free and open source software will not be accessible to all until it is safe for everyone to participate, and we therefore call upon our peers in the broader software community to join us in making these commitments. 

– The OSI Board of Directors

OSI Election Update: Trust and Transparency in the 2021 Board Election

We are committed to nothing less than complete restoration of trust in OSI elections, and transparency as to precisely what went wrong with our initial 2021 Board Election.


While our Board was initially confident we could re-run a successful election starting today, lots of people have raised quite reasonable doubts--and then some less reasonable fear, uncertainty, and doubt (FUD) seeped into the discourse. We’re changing plans accordingly.


Below is an action plan for bringing transparency to the 2021 Board Elections and restoring trust among the community in our elections.


Most importantly, we will publish a detailed report here on our blog and ensure the electorate has been fully informed before we re-run the election.


Here is our plan:

  1. Engage an independent forensic expert to investigate the process and technology and report on their findings.
  2. Charter an Oversight Committee including a mix of current board members (excluding any who were running for reelection) and highly trusted and visible long term members of the OSI community in good standing.
  3. Have the Oversight Committee receive the forensic report, summarize their findings, and, at their discretion, make recommendations to the Board.
  4. Board decides on a course of action, and publishes the report after adding details about its own deliberations and both short- and long-term action plans.
  5. Communicate the report publicly as well as directly to voting members of OSI.
  6. Run the election again.


Through this plan of action, we intend to clear everything up and demonstrate to everyone in the community just how committed OSI is to doing right by you. After all, OSI is an organization of, by, and for the community.


We thank you for your patience and understanding, and will be posting weekly status updates until this is resolved. We do not anticipate that this will take very long.


OSI Board & Staff

Re-Running Our 2021 Board Election

We've already let our candidates, affiliate representatives and voting members know, but we also wanted to let the public know. This week we found a vulnerability in our voting processes that was exploited and had an impact on the outcome of the recent Board Election. That vulnerability has now been closed. OSI will engage an independent expert to do a forensic investigation to help us understand how this happened and put measures in place to keep it from ever happening again.

Because it is critical to the integrity of our elections process and the trust of our members and the public place in OSI, we’ve made a decision to rerun our 2021 board elections for both Individual and Affiliate seats. We do appreciate that this means extra time and attention from our candidates and from our voting members. For that, we are very sorry. We want to make absolutely sure that the Board Election accurately represents the will of our voters and in this instance, that means we must run it again.

New election starts: March 23rd, 2021 at 9:00 a.m. PDT
New election closes: April 2nd, 2021 at 11:00 a.m. PDT

Your new ballot will again come from Helios. (The vulnerability was with an internal piece of our process, not Helios.) We sincerely hope you will take the time to vote again and help us choose our future board members.

Please know that the OSI is absolutely committed to transparency. When we better understand how this  happened, we will share the details with you and the public.

If you have any questions, please let us know.
Thank you for supporting the OSI,
Deb Nicholson
Interim General Manager

OSI Events: Future & Recent Appearances

Are you missing catching up with OSI at events? We miss it too! We have been staying busy with online events and hope you’ll be able to stay current with us from the comfort of your home. This weekend is the 13thFOSSASIA event. FOSSASIA is an OSI Affiliate organization and this year’s event takes place from March 13th to March 21st. OSI’s Vice President, Hong Phuc Dang will deliver the opening keynote on Saturday. 


Videos are also now available for many staff and board appearances from the last two months, including many from FOSDEM. 




The Open Road is a brand new podcast about open source, focusing on best practices in community building, hosted by long-time community leaders Brian Profitt and Rich Bowen. Their inaugural episode, “What is Onboarding?” featured our General Manager, Deb Nicholson plus Mary Thengvall and Sarah Finn.  


Tidelift’s Luis Villa and OSI’s Board President, Josh Simmons are starting up a new casual Friday chat about free software topics. Their first confab was with Deb Nicholson and took place on March 4th. Catch the first conversation and learn more about the series,here.


In case you missed it,FOSS Backstage on February 10 featured an all-star panel with OSI Board members Josh Simmons and Hong Phuc Dang along with other well-known FOSS luminaries; Stephen Jacobs, Cat Allman and Jonathan Fink. This panel, “The Culture of Open Source Between Institutions” was chaired by OSI Staffer, Richard Littauer.


Josh also visitedDC Python’s main monthly meet-up on February 27 and delivered a talk titled, “About the Open Source Initiative” where he talked about our organizational plans and goals for the next year or two.




In theLegal & Policy room, Hong Phuc Dang (Board Vice-President) and Deb Nicholson (our General Manager) talked about why FOSS is so US-centric, why it shouldn't be and what we can do about it. Their talkOpen Source Culture is Very US-Centric, But It Shouldn't Be: How Can We Make FOSS Truly Global? is up now. 


Deb also presented in theCommunity Devroom about triaging your workflow so that you get the important things done and skip the rest. Check out, "How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Doing Less."


Our Board member Italo Vignoli is spoke twice in theLibreOffice room on LibreOffice’s history,LibreOffice Technology From a desktop product to a platform for personal productivity and how to get the most out of LibreOffice’s native document format,ODF for Interoperability: Tips and Tricks to Tackle the Most Common Issues.