This. Shit. Really. Matters.
The U.S. Supreme Court is about to rule on who controls the Java APIs – and every other API you’ve ever used. If it goes the wrong way, a handful of big companies will control whether your code ever works again.
How much do you think a Supreme Court Justice knows about writing code? What would your code (and coding experience) look like if you had to license and pay for every single API you used? Are you spoiled by little luxuries like food and shelter? Are these thoughts related?
Yes, SCOTUS is about to decide on just that, and by extension, whether your world changes. Here’s the kicker, now that we’ve reached this point there’s bugger-all you can do about it. For those of you who are members, thank you for helping us take the fight this far, we couldn’t have done it without you.
Here’s what I do for fun: I spent my Christmas vacation writing a 7,500-word legal brief to the Supreme Court trying to explain what it is developers do for a living and why giving control of APIs to corporations, much less giant corporation, is a bad idea. I can do this because a handful of your peers think it’s worth returning some of their profits to the developer community and support the Developers Alliance – to defend it from existential threats, big government, and political ignorance. I encourage you to ask them why they do that.
If you make money from code, you know that the only protection you have from people stealing your work is copyright. Patents don’t work. Secrets are great once you’ve made it and no one needs to see the work. Not to mention, you PROBABLY include an API or two in. You can admit it. Without ever thinking about who owns that, or whether they might slam the door on your ability to use it one day. We asked earlier, but take another moment to reflect: What would your code (and coding experience) look like if you had to license and pay for every single API you used?
Two monster companies fighting over a few billion dollars seems like an everyday headline, but it’s not when your personal day to day is being directly impacted. If some big company out there controls the APIs you use, they can cut you off whenever they choose. You and your products are the competition, of course! Licenses might help, but not if they disconnect from the other side; clamping down on the platform that implements the code you’re trying to call.
How does this actually impact you: Trying to start your own app and want to throw an API into your code? Not if Big Tech Company made it. Their fleet of devs already copyrighted it and Big Tech Company doesn’t want you using it. Given a license by Big Tech Company to use an API? You’ve exceeded the trial period (now that we’ve seen how valuable the application of that API is). If you want access, fork over the cash — if we let you. Your app is no longer your app if a piece of that code is copyrighted and thus belongs to someone else. No platform, no apps to sell; only a race to copyright APIs. Indentured servitude follows.
WE NEED YOUR HELP. If fighting for APIs seems worthwhile, if you didn’t know this was happening, or if you’d like to visit Brussels or DC one day and chat with a lawmaker, you should join our monthly mailing list, send us a note, or comment below.
In return, we’ll type our fingers to the bone, drink the blood of our enemies, and do our damndest to keep them from messing you up.