1. At the risk of sounding simplistic, it is the patents, and not the copyrights, that matter most here.
2. Copyright infringement might provide a basis for a damage award but this, in a worst case, could readily be absorbed by Google, even as it works around any copyrighted code issues in future Android releases. What is more, the main copyright claims appear to center on a bizarre technical point, at least as framed by the court pleadings - that is, that the so-called open-sourcing done by Sun of the Java SE specification was, in effect, illusory because no such license was valid unless a vendor (such as ASF) could show "compatibility" with the Java specification via test suites made available by Sun through a license of its TCK, which in turn required that vendor to pay license fees and to agree to restrict distribution to the desktop only. Whether that claim stands remains to be seen but it would seem to me that Google (even if had to pay damages) could clean up any infringing code without too much harm to its prospects for the Android market in doing its future releases.
3. The patent claims pose the greatest risks for Google. Should it lose here, Google could be permanently enjoined from doing further Android distribution and would (I assume) find it exceedingly hard to do any workarounds. In that case, Google stands to lose potentially a vast, critical market and would effectively have to make Oracle its strategic partner for all of the mobile space in order to solve this problem. Very bad news indeed.
4. The good news is that Google has a strong track record of fighting off extortionist patent claims and has hit back hard (see, e.g., the HN discussion on a piece entitled "Google Bowls a Googly," http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1899156).
I would be interested in how those who are technically knowledgeable assess the risks to Google from the legal framework set forth above or in how you might clarify or reframe those legal issues based on technical points that I have missed.
A Googly is a type of delivery bowled by a bowler where the ball, after pitching on the ground, turns in the opposite direction of the majority of the balls bowled by the bowler.
Thus a bowler who predominantly bowls off-spin ( ie, a ball which, after pitching on the ground, turns from left to right ) bowls one which goes from right to left.
As far as I can see at this moment none of this code ever made it in to the actual distribution that is used to operate the android devices, it is but a series of tests to ensure that compiled code functions correctly.
Still, these tests shouldn't have been in that tree and google will have to remove them and possibly will end up settling for the damages, though what those damages are will be very tough to argue. How does one quantify the damage of having these tests copied? In programmer hours required to re-create the code?
So, I agree with you that the copyrights are not the issue and even if a lot more code surfaces that google does not have a right to redistribute and it did end up in the android kernel they have the resources to work around it and to absorb the damages.
If the patent claims will stick and google will be prohibited from further distribution there will be an immediate and hard to resolve issue.
A case like that could drag on for a very long time and it would be next to impossible to stop infringing on a patent that is specified vaguely enough to require such litigation in the first place.
I'm probably slightly evil for hoping that this case actually will revolve around the patent and will prove once and for all how bad the patent system really is and that software patents do little to nothing to encourage innovation and actually do a lot of harm.
If there is one party that has the resources to fight such a battle successfully it is google.
The big winner in a fight like that would be Apple with the Apple system being untainted by any of these claims and presumably unencumbered by these particular patents.
Of course Apple has its own patent issues to contend with (http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2010/dec/16/nokia-apple...), on the whole it looks as though the mobile world is an all out battle ground for patent lawyers.
1. When you do Open Source - you ship the source.
2. I don't remember copyright law being concerned with "shipping". I think "distribution" is what counts and if it's in the git tree - that's distribution.
The tests can then be removed and any damage claims will likely be settled and/or workarounds will be created.
If the code is in the core of android and ends up in the product as shipped by the various handset manufacturers then it's a completely different story.
I'm not convinced that there will be much distinction between the infringing works being in the binaries or not. They are in the source tree and that is essentially part of the build process. What's more, the source tree is distributed to all Android manufacturers. Google are shipping the source code.
I'm sure Oracle don't see it that way.
What we should be talking about is how they got into the git tree in the first place.
UPDATE: FlorianMueller posted comments on the ZDNet post.
EDIT: Ryan Paul's take - http://arstechnica.com/open-source/news/2011/01/new-alleged-... . He confirms that the files in question are non-shipping ones.
"It's not clear how the zip file got included in the AOSP, but it's obvious that it wasn't intended to be there and isn't actually used by Android in any capacity."
edit: Thought the blog post was removed from Techmeme, but was mistaken.
I think this speaks to the poor quality of tech journalism. A part of the problem are poorly informed consumers.
I am guilty of this too - being drawn to inflammatory headlines - but to be honest, the truth is much less interesting in this case.
On the plus side, the story got here only 4 hours after the original one.
Exactly. The headline "Surprising Event Happens" is bound to draw more discussion than it's mere overturning....unless the discussion becomes about the meta issue of journalism.
For this one as well as quote #3, what's missing is an analysis of the code actually shipped with Android-based devices. There are many such devices. Some may be more security-oriented (hence more likely to make use of the "acl" and PolicyNodeImpl type of classes) than others.
So we're talking about a totally unsubstantiated claim here. There may be build scripts, and some files may not be in them by default. That doesn't mean that no maker of an Android-based device actually decided to build them into a product, especially if Apache license headers appeared to allow it.
If this scenario did in fact occur, then isn't it the device manufacturer's fault and problem, and not Google's responsibility?
Which party builds/packages the Android distributions for the actual phone devices that the OS will appear on?
Especially considering they did register their copyright on Java 5. I know because I have read the court exhibits.
I'm speculating, but I think he views the problem as being patents, and thinks the effort around the GPL to be a distraction and one that fundamentally doesn't solve the patent issue. Again, only speculating, but I think he'd like to see a real patent nuclear attack which will push the industry to move to get rid of patents.
UPDATE: thanks for the reply. I thought the WTF was something directly related to this story.
Wikipedia: "founder of the NoSoftwarePatents campaign."
So he lobbied against patents in the past and been paid by a corporation for supporting a particular cause in the past. I would invite you to look at the positions he's taken on his blog and decide which he's doing at present.
Proof positive that even among HN readers the crowd is a bit less than intelligent
On the other hand, unittest is far cleaner for testing corner cases and the like. I've used both in a project quite happily (and like that Django has default support for both).