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Android Market's most popular emulators disappear without a trace (engadget.com)
75 points by berberich 1054 days ago | comments


avree 1054 days ago | link

The emulators were created with code that was stolen. Google is simply cracking down on licensing violations. They're not taking a stance against emulation in general, or anything like that.

I'm sure that if you submitted an emulator that you actually wrote, rather than stealing, and sold it, it would stay up just fine.

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daeken 1054 days ago | link

Do you have a source for this? Not unlikely, but odd that it wouldn't be mentioned.

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Macha 1054 days ago | link

SNESoid code: https://github.com/Pretz/SNesoid/tree/

This is the stuff that is under a non commercial license that he is selling.

The readme also links to a sourceforge account with all the code yongzh has released. What's there is frequently outdated and some emulators (n64oid) are outright not there.

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drtse4 1053 days ago | link

The issue here seems the same for all the mentioned emulators, while he have developed a common lower layer graphic library for them, the actual emulation code is from other famous open-source emulators (original project or ports, all with non-commercial licenses). E.g. snesoid is based on a snes9x port.

Anyone with a G1 or G2/Magic will remember when all the yong's emulators suddenly appeared on the market nearly two years ago, at the same time he published nes/snes/gba/mame emulators. Considering the time needed to develop a single platform emulator that supports a good share of games (usually years, maybe with few exception in the history of console emulation), developing them all from scratch would have been impossible imho.

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kelvie 1054 days ago | link

The issue here is that the author here used the emulator code bases (from the Snes9x project and others) and tried to profit from them, which is probably against the license of the underlying code.

He didn't even release his source code, so he was in violation of the original license, but tried to profit from it anyways.

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runjake 1054 days ago | link

Yet Google can't remove the crapware and cull Market for apps that steal your data.

Not trolling here, I'm a happy Nexus S (and iPhone 4) owner.

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dpcan 1054 days ago | link

I want them to add categories and monito them. Why are chess, bubble popper games, and mole poking games in the top of the sports games categories?????

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rodh257 1053 days ago | link

What apps are you talking about?

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runjake 1053 days ago | link

Search for any popular app, like Angry Birds, and note that its normally pretty hard to find the actual app you're after amongst all the crapware (ringtones, live wallpapers, etc) that attempt to trick you into purchasing them.

For malicious apps, check all the press over the years regarding malicious Android apps in the Market.

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rodh257 1052 days ago | link

So you are saying Google should decide what is crapware and what isn't? The only thing I think that needs to happen is they change the ranking algorithm for search so it's easier to find the real app, not that I ever have any problem with that.

All the press I'm finding re malicious apps is the ones saying Google has removed them, as they should. If you know any more that haven't been removed I suggest you report them.

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mail2345 1054 days ago | link

DroidDream was yanked, all though that was more malware.

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Mizza 1054 days ago | link

Google still has not replied to the complaints set out by the Android Developers Union - this is a clear example about why we need demand #5.

http://www.andevuni.org

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jokermatt999 1054 days ago | link

The developer of PSX4Droid made it free but adsupported from his site. http://www.zodttd.com/wp/2011/04/psx4droid-3-0-0-is-out-down... I don't like the removals, but I'm happy I can still sideload them without any issues.

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Macha 1054 days ago | link

And he also finally released the source code. It has always been based on PCSX despite Zod's bullshit claims otherwise. He was violating the GPL with it, and I'm glad Google pulled his app from the store as he started to comply with the GPL as a result. If only saurik would do the same to Zod's iPhone apps...

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Xuzz 1054 days ago | link

Jay (saurik) doesn't actually have any control over what's available in Cydia, just as Ubuntu doesn't control what's included in a third-party repository you add. You can, however, take it up with the repository hosting the packages: but in this case, I think ZodTTD hosts them himself. You'd have to likely get the actual copyright holder to demand he take it down, or post the source code.

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Macha 1054 days ago | link

Saurik has control over what is in the Cydia store, unless I am mistaken about how the Cydia Store works. He also has control of the community repos. PSX4iphone and snes4iphone are featured apps in the Cydia Store. ZodTTD is a community source. Having a serial GPL violator as one of the most promoted Cydia Store coders and a community source makes the whole Jailbreak community look bad.

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Xuzz 1053 days ago | link

That's a good point, I didn't realize they were in the Cydia Store. I've asked saurik about it. (I thought that ZodTTD had actually released the source, but it appears it is often years out of date.) And you can't ever sell SNES9x, which he is doing. Sigh.

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code_duck 1054 days ago | link

The emulator apps have companion apps which download copyrighted ROMs for you. They push the download system in the emulator app description, as well as within the emulator itself. I wonder if that was the problem? Looking forward to the details.

I'm pretty annoyed with this, as I've purchased two of yongzh's apps, and don't have them installed on my phone currently - I was expecting to be able to reinstall them anytime.

So now Android has lost the two main things I liked, emulators and Grooveshark. If they're going to bring us all the bad things about Apple's system and none of the good, I might as well just get an iPhone next time. Or, if yongzh was infringing GPL as a few comments say, never mind! Hopefully someone normal will release these apps soon. There's plenty of emulator code out there to go by.

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rodh257 1054 days ago | link

Everyone always goes overboard with their reaction to any app removal from the marketplace. I don't see what the big deal is, I'm glad to see Google keeping the market from being too dodgey. All of these "oh well this is pretty much Apple" comments are silly. If you are doing something illegal, you can distribute the .apk online, anything else can go on the market without a lengthy review process. It's worlds apart.

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dpcan 1054 days ago | link

I don't know if this is why, but my sales are up about 10% today over compared to the last week's average, so I don't know how niche this really was but my guess is that emulation may have been curbing the gaming needs of many. Not sure though.

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cma 1054 days ago | link

So, from Honeycomb onwards, Android is no longer open source aside from the places where they are forced to be (through the GPL), and the market is more of an Apple app store.

(or were there some copyright claims involved here? e.g. making a TI-89 emulator should be ok for the market, but you can't include TI's ROM)

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commandar 1054 days ago | link

>So, from Honeycomb onwards, Android is no longer open source aside from the places where they are forced to be (through the GPL)

As others have pointed out, that's only for Honeycomb. Google has said all along that the code would be going public again once it's been cleaned up and the phone and tablet versions have been remerged for the next major release.

>(or were there some copyright claims involved here? e.g. making a TI-89 emulator should be ok for the market, but you can't include TI's ROM)

The comments over on reddit are suggesting that these emulators were based on GPL'd emulators and the developer wasn't complying with the GPL. If that's the case, Google was absolutely right in pulling them from the market. The market is minimally moderated, but blatant copyright infringement is still a no-no for obvious reasons.

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starnix17 1054 days ago | link

"e.g. making a TI-89 emulator should be ok for the market, but you can't include TI's ROM"

I don't think so. For example, I know the PSX emulator didn't include any of the required BIOS files and they are all still removed.

It seems that if someone big enough complains, Google will remove any emulator.

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burgerbrain 1054 days ago | link

Well, despite acting pretty similar in the past in a few key cases (I crack my self up :P), TI has usually acted more or less sane when dealing with their hacker community. They have no issue with the numerous emulators out there for their calculators so long as you don't distribute one of their roms.

EDIT: occurs to me people might not have gotten that pun: https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Texas_Instrum...

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Kylekramer 1054 days ago | link

The boilerplate response: Android's open (except for Honeycomb), Android Market is not and has never been open and is nearly completely at Google's discretion, and you can normally install these apps outside of the market in cases like these.

That said, it is a frustrating move. The problem is similar to the one I foresee happening soon with the Mac App Store. Sure, it is great to have the convenience of the one true app store alongside the freedom to install what you please, but the power of the first tends to undermine the second until the freedom is mostly theoretical as the platform still is nearly entirely in one company's hands (e.g., the current state of Android).

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theBobMcCormick 1054 days ago | link

The big difference is that with Android, you only need to change 1 checkbox in your settings and you can download apps from outside the Android Market (That's how you install the Amazon Market for example). With the iPhone, there's no way to download apps from outside the App Store.

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cma 1054 days ago | link

That's not true of all Android branded phones.

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andrewpi 1054 days ago | link

Actually, I believe only AT&T blocked non-Market installs, and they are removing that restriction going forward.

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drivebyacct2 1054 days ago | link

Branded? AT&T is no longer locking down future devices, has enabled it on some of their older devices and it's easy to do via ADB.

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cma 1054 days ago | link

re: branded

There are certain requirements to use the Android trademark. For instance, Barnes and Noble don't get to use the Android brand for the Nook.

Allowing unapproved apps isn't one of those requirements, and in practice some Android branded devices have indeed disallowed such apps.

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foob 1054 days ago | link

So, from Honeycomb onwards, Android is no longer open source aside from the places where they are forced to be

That's factually incorrect and sounds like flamebait. They've stated that they're going to begin releasing the code again with Ice Cream Sandwich and not wanting to release bad code that was forced by a deadline isn't totally unreasonable.

the market is more of an Apple app store.

It's always been moderated. As has already been mentioned in another response the big difference is that on Android you can install apps from a different app store.

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qjz 1054 days ago | link

What's factually incorrect? It's not open source if they don't release the code (no matter how bad it might be).

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cookiecaper 1054 days ago | link

It's incorrect because he said "From Honeycomb onwards...". It is not an ongoing change in policy, but a one-time exception that was made specifically in the case of Honeycomb because Honeycomb was not really ready for distribution. Ice Cream Sandwich (i.e., Honeycomb+1) will be open like Froyo and its predecessors.

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Daniel14 1054 days ago | link

Android as an OS is open source, the Android Market isn't. The market is completely controlled by Google, and since you can still install .apk files without using the Market I don't think this is such a great deal as Engadget paints it to be.

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Xuzz 1054 days ago | link

Well, except Honeycomb. From what I've been able to tell, that will only be open sourced when Ice Cream Sandwich is released, which appears to near at the end of the year.

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Someone 1054 days ago | link

Totally unrelated: interesting phrase, that "The market is completely controlled by Google". Especially given the (accidentally, I assume) missing capital M, it made me think of the "is App Store a generic term?" discussion. I think your post shows that generic words can, at the least, come very close to being specific terms.

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yanw 1054 days ago | link

Can we please stop the 'is it really open?!' silliness that gets triggered after every such incident.

They specifically said that there will be a code drop, as for the app removal it's probably due to copyright owner request and they had to comply.

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potatolicious 1054 days ago | link

Your definition of open source must be different than mine - "we will drop the source if and when we feel like it" doesn't smell like an open source project to me.

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cookiecaper 1054 days ago | link

The GPL and LGPL components have been released. The Apache License is approved by OSI, making it an "open-source license" by that organization's definition. Copyleft is not a mandatory component of open-source. Do you want to argue that *BSD is not really open-source because of its non-copyleft license? It may not match Stallman's definition of Free Software, but it does match OSI's definition of "open-source".

Google has a right to withhold the non-copyleft components if they don't feel they're ready for distribution. Open-source doesn't mean that you can force someone's hand if they're not ready to share. Can you call Theo de Raat and compel him to release an unpublished branch of modifications to OpenBSD and then accuse him of not really developing open-source programs because he only releases source "if and when he feels like it".

Google's hand was forced on Honeycomb and it wasn't really ready for distribution. If you're upset about this, you shouldn't buy a Honeycomb product because it doesn't come with a full stack of source. That's a great idea. Honeycomb+1 will have source like its predecessors.

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tluyben2 1053 days ago | link

Wow the comments on Engadget are amazingly stupid. Maybe i'm just spoiled.

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lotusleaf1987 1054 days ago | link

So Android is basically giving up their biggest competitive advantage to iPhone gaming? Android's emulators always seemed to trump iPhones wider selection of native games.

This is almost certainly a result of the launch of Sony's Xperia aka Playstation Android phone. Can't you still just sideload the app?

Maybe Amazon's Android store will allow the emulators back in? Or will Google be able to block this?

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mikemaccana 1054 days ago | link

"Android is basically giving up their biggest competitive advantage to iPhone gaming? "

Emulation is a niche. Mainstream audiences want touch touch-enabled games, designed for small screens (no tiny fonts) at their native resolution without the hassle of finding illegal ROMs.

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T-R 1054 days ago | link

And emulators with touch screen controls are an even smaller niche. I play my fair share of classic games, but the iOS/Android emulators never struck me as compelling - Megaman, for example, is just not playable without actual buttons, and I'd happily pay for RPGs (even remakes) that have touch interfaces as opposed to simulated buttons.

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lotusleaf1987 1054 days ago | link

I would think that more people would want to play Super Mario on their phones than Angry Birds just based on familiarity. How many billions of people know Mario and how to play it already? Final Fantasy 1/2/3 are selling well on iOS. What is your source for your assertion over what mainstream audiences want?

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getsat 1054 days ago | link

Angry Birds sold 10 million copies on iOS alone in under a year. I highly doubt the majority of them would rather play a platformer that has been done to death over the last 25 years.

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lotusleaf1987 1054 days ago | link

Sure and how many will they sell next year? Mario games, as a whole, have sold more than 210 million units: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mario

One single ringtone, Crazy Frog, made its creators a cool half billion back in 2006: http://communities-dominate.blogs.com/brands/2010/09/welcome... Sometimes you're just in the right place at the right time. Also, price/availability makes a huge difference--how many platforms was Angry Birds sold on and how much did it cost compared to Mario?

Lady Gaga may outsell the Beatles this year, but in 2015 it's almost near certain the Beatles/Elvis/Frank Sinatra and other classics will still be selling. There is always going to be a demand for new product, but the iconic games/bands/movies are still as relevant as before and there will be demand to have these classics ported to the new medium.

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rodh257 1053 days ago | link

Mario games as a whole on the platforms they are intended for may have sold lots but how many people have bought the SNES, Gameboy etc versions?

We're talking about an old game on a device it wasn't meant for, there's no way your average consumer would rather that over a game built for the touch interaction on a device.

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nitrogen 1053 days ago | link

I think this is one instance where talking about the "average consumer" is meaningless, since if you define the average to be something like the median 50% of the population, you're still excluding the 50% of the population at the ends of the distribution.

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27182818284 1054 days ago | link

No, you're absolutely correct, more people do want to play Super Mario than Angry Birds, but more people do not want the hassle of getting a ROM, learning what the heck a ROM is, etc. That Nintendo and the other companies haven't dedicated a small team to native Android / iPhone development to make some small games for the phones surprises me.

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Steko 1054 days ago | link

It seems to me the other companies are coming out with native ports (sega, atari, capcom, square, etc.).

OTOH how can it be surprising that Nintendo is not cutting the legs off it's own platforms? 25+ years I can't recall their first party titles on anything but Nintendo consoles.

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mdwrigh2 1053 days ago | link

While I'm loathe to dig up the memories, they did at one point release on someone else's console: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CD-i_games_from_The_Legend_of_Z...

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Steko 1053 days ago | link

Good catch, wow how did I miss those (well cdi but still).

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fhars 1053 days ago | link

The games are the unique value proposition for their consoles (which they sell for a profit, unlike other companies). Publishing them elsewhere would quite probably be a net negative for Nintendo.

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lotusleaf1987 1054 days ago | link

I agree, but I just thought it was always a strong strategic move for Android because all the people who wanted to play Donkey Kong or Zelda would at least have the option to do so, whereas for iOS you have to jailbreak your device.

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commandar 1054 days ago | link

>Maybe Amazon's Android store will allow the emulators back in?

If the speculation that these emulators were pulled because they were infringing on GPL code is correct, I wouldn't count on it.

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lotusleaf1987 1054 days ago | link

It seems like the timing is too coincidental/coordinated with the Sony Xperia Play phone launching. Why would you buy games from the PSN store when you can buy an emulator for $8 and then get the games for free? It's in Google's interest to keep Sony happy, more than it is a few developers. Google also leaves a loophole because you can still side-load the apps.

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commandar 1054 days ago | link

If Google's goal is getting emulators off the market, they're doing a pretty poor job of it:

https://market.android.com/search?q=emulator&so=1&c=...

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lotusleaf1987 1054 days ago | link

Great point, then maybe avree (above) is correct and the code was indeed stolen.

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T-R 1054 days ago | link

That's a fair argument regarding PSX4Droid, but I doubt that's the case with this group of emulators. Sony doesn't have any relationship with the SNES or the Genesis, so with the exception of maybe a few ported games, it's doubtful they'll be selling that IP on their own store. In fact, the controller on the Xperia Play would make those emulators a pretty compelling reason to buy it.

I'd wager this was related to either ROM distribution or violating the license on the emulator code.

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dspillett 1053 days ago | link

I doubt this is about "keeping Sony happy" specifically.

It might be that Sony is the entity that raised the infringements to their attention, if the reports of GPL infringement and other "non-commercial use" licensing issues are correct.

Why would Sony be defending GPLed code? Possibly following "the enemy of my enemy can at least be used to inconvenience my enemy" rule. Though there is no evidence that a high profile company is behind the take-down at all - it could well be that one or more of the open source projects caught wind of their code being used in breach of their chosen license and complained to Google and that the timing of Xperia's launch is a coincidence.

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yanw 1054 days ago | link

It is obviously a copyright thing and they had to comply with removal requests.

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jbermudes 1054 days ago | link

Emulators themselves do not constitute copyright infringement. For instance, if I wanted to write my own software to run on a Super Nintendo I can do so and run it on an emulator or build a cartridge and flash it on there to play it on the real system.

The copyright infringement starts when you're making unauthorized copies of the data on game cartridges.

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Macha 1054 days ago | link

The removed apps infringe the copyright of the emulators they were copied from as they do not adhere to the license terms (non-commercial only for snes9x in snesoid, GPL for Mupen64Plus in n64oid and so on). This isn't about the legality of all emulators, just yongzh's.

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baddox 1054 days ago | link

The world you describe sounds pretty reasonable, but don't count on it reflecting reality.

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Tichy 1054 days ago | link

"For instance, if I wanted to write my own software to run on a Super Nintendo"

That is not the same thing as writing a Super Nintendo emulator and selling it. I can think of lots of things that could be copyrighted about Super Nintendo's "OS".

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joel_ms 1054 days ago | link

Only the the actual implementation code (and subsequent compiled result) is under copyright, anyone is free to write an independent implementation that's not based on any of the original copyrighted code.

(There is of course the possibility of patents covering the innovations in the SNES, but that's a separate issue from copyright, and I have no idea how software patents in Japan worked around the time the SNES got released.)

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jbermudes 1054 days ago | link

That's a good point. I believe the patents on the NES Lockout chip expired recently and hence the flood of NES/Famicom hardware clones in recent years.

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Tichy 1053 days ago | link

So APIs are not copyrightable?

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joel_ms 1053 days ago | link

Good question.

Copyright is concerned with protecting original works, so it depends on what exactly you're referring to by "API". My interpretation is that the technical document describing an API is an original work and that the library implementing an API is an original work (provided they do not copy or modify existing works protected by copyright, then they are derivative works), but the idea the API conveys is not protected by copyright (this is what's known as the idea-expression divide[1]).

This is further complicated by the fact that we're discussing the law here so we can't assume anything to be logical or consistent. In the US, the DMCA have specific portions concerning the legality of reverse engineering for various purposes, which have implications for someone wishing to write an independent implementation of an API[2]. Maybe someone would argue that any implementation written according to the API specification is a derivative work?

I don't think there's a definitive answer to your question, since AFAIK this haven't been tested in court. In fact, in the ongoing patent/copyright dispute between Oracle and Google, Oracle claims Google violated Oracle's copyright by reproducing Java API's in Android[3].

(Disclaimer: IANAL, and I've probably misinterpreted something along the way)

[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Idea-expression_divide

[2] http://stackoverflow.com/questions/1094103/is-copying-an-api...

[3] http://www.groklaw.net/pdf2/OraGoogle-36.pdf (p. 9)

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