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How to Survive the API Copyright Apocalypse


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APIDays Paris Main track talk on the state of API Copyright and how to work together to create more open APIs. Steven Willmott

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How to Survive the API Copyright Apocalypse

  1. 1. How to Survive the API Copyright Apocalypse (and supercharge the API Economy) Steven Willmott, API Days Paris, 14th December 2016 Paris France
  2. 2.
  3. 3. Steven Willmott, Former CEO of 3scale Senior Director and Head of API Infrastructure / Twitter: @njyx See us at the Red Hat Booth
  4. 4. 4 Cloud Containers Microservices DevOps RED HAT TECHNOLOGY Storage App Delivery Integration API Management
  5. 5. Before we start…
  6. 6. Copyright potential is everywhere
  7. 7. The API Copyright Apocalypse
  8. 8. Google v’s Oracle Java API Copyright Lawsuit
  9. 9. • The Structure of the Interface is what is at issue • Paths, Parameters, Return Types etc. Example
  10. 10. Google won…
  11. 11. So, we’re good…?
  12. 12. • Not so fast! • Google ”won” but…. • Lots of consequences • There will be an appeal • @sarahjeong Sarah Jeong Image Credit: @wiredferret (Heidi at
  13. 13. Copyrighting an idea of something – not it’s expression Copyrighting every possible implementation of that thing Makes building any new API Hard Could make integration impossible Claims would be extremely hard to validate What is complex enough? It’s not clear what type of modifications are ok There is no way to search current state of the art Impact of Copyright Enforcement
  14. 14. It is Even Bad for those that Enforce Copyright Copyrighting one version protects it However, APIs evolve and the next version may intersect with other APIs Asserting copyright may force prior art owners to do the same API Maintenance now becomes a legal issue
  15. 15. Chilling effect on re-use Increase risk in publishing APIs and uncertainty in using them Financial burden of searching for prior art or fighting troll cases Long term: gridlock for APIs Long term: non-documentation of APIs Long term: API specs could be amassed like patent portfolios => No Profit! Worst Impacts Legal costs concerning potential issues
  16. 16. How to Survive the Apocalypse
  17. 17. API Copyright is similar to a plague
  18. 18. Even if you survive, it’s not fun to be the last one standing
  19. 19. Solution requires individual action at a collective scale
  20. 20. Solution: Share API definitions, don’t Copyright them
  21. 21. How to: Open Source (Liberal License) Creative Commons Signal these changes
  22. 22. Interface becomes a better bet for their users Others can help evolve it as well as write clients / back-ends Signal to developers they are making a safe choice Become a platform leader in your space More and more shared definitions Common patterns become established Better scrutiny of designs Building up libraries for clients and back-ends Why do this?
  23. 23. Ask! Attribute! Contribute Get clarification of status / rules If you “Re-Use” an Interface Common Courtesy!
  24. 24. (first attempt at an API Definition sharing process)
  25. 25. Developer View
  26. 26. Copyright free: less risk of lock in Copyright free: more chance of other implementation Copyright free: ensures the right to implement clients Copyright free: community oriented provider Developer View Preferred API Provider!
  27. 27. Actual Zombies?
  28. 28. 1. Aim for the head 2. Run for the hills 3. Always pack plenty of snacks 4. Avoid large groups of people 5. Use fire (but be careful with TNT) 6. No time for sentiment, kill the infected 7. Stay in Shape!
  29. 29. Help us take on the Zombies!
  30. 30. Conclusions
  31. 31. Some Good News this Week “US Copyright Office officially allows owners to work on their own car” But: only owners, not third parties
  32. 32. Things to Do 1. Determine real API value 2. Look at role and evolution of the design 3. Consider Open Source and Copyright Free 4. Contribute to the Commons 5. (Beware of Zombies!)
  33. 33. Good Luck! @njyx @3scale @redhatnews
  34. 34. 35 Cloud Containers Microservices DevOps RED HAT BRINGS IT ALL TOGETHER Storage App Delivery Integration API Management
  35. 35. THANK YOU 36
  36. 36. • 1st Zombie Photo: Daniel Hollister - • Zombie Survivor Couple: David Willis - • Zombie Trio: • Cover slide Zombie: • Worker photo re-use from linked URL from Autoblog All images copyright their owners Attributions