You Wouldn't Reimplement an API: Lessons from Oracle v. Google

Accepted Session
Short Form
Scheduled: Thursday, June 22, 2017 from 10:00 – 10:45am in B302/303


Imagine being called for jury duty and then getting forced into a Java bootcamp run by two instructors who hate each other and won’t stop saying the opposite things. Worse, both instructors are inconsistent with themselves.


In 2010, Oracle sued Google over 37 APIs in the Android platform that were created as a clean room implementation of Java Standard Edition. Oracle’s intellectual property interests had just been newly acquired via its acquisition of Sun Microsystems. Up until this point, Sun had been extremely friendly to the open source community—the Oracle v. Google litigation represented a 180 degree turn in how their IP was going to be handled.

I covered the 2016 Oracle v. Google trial as a journalist from start to finish. In this talk, I discuss the highlights, the legal case, the problems with litigating software copyright, and practical implications of the case for the future of software and open source.

Speaking experience

With videos:
XOXO 2016:
Berkman Center 2015:
American Association of Law Libraries - National Conference on Copyright of State Legal Materials, 2016 (slides and voice recording):
Online News Association 2015:

Handful of relevant talks, without videos:
APIStrat Boston 2016, Copyright Society Oracle v. Google panel 2016, Mozfest 2015, True/False Film Festival 2017, UC Davis Law Review Symposium 2017

I previously gave a version of this talk at APIStrat. The talk was well-received but no video exists. Here are some tweets with photos from the audience: