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Google's 'copied Java code' disowned by Apache

Dis-Harmony from Oracle's Android suit

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Open argument

In response to Oracle's initial complaint, Google dubbed it "baseless" and accused Ellison and company of attacking the open source community. "The open-source Java community goes beyond any one corporation and works every day to make the web a better place," it said in a statement. "We will strongly defend open-source standards and will continue to work with the industry to develop the Android platform."

Then, in its official answer to Oracle, it accused the database outfit of a certain open source hypocrisy. As Google pointed out in its court filing, Oracle called for Sun Microsystems to fully open source Java in 2007, but then reversed course following its acquisition of Sun. "[Oracle has] ignored the open source community’s requests to fully open-source the Java platform," the filing said.

On one level, Google is attempting to win favor by playing the open card. Google discusses Oracle's Java past in the "factual background" section of its filing, and in some respects this is mere, well, background. "These are claims in which Google is trying to provide context and a foundation for the rest of its case," Bocchieri says. "It remains to be seen how it will weave them into a legal defense...it's background, and that's what Google calls it. It's extra."

Claims of Android openness aren't always what they seem. Most of Android, including the Dalvik virtual machine, is open sourced under an Apache license. But in creating its own virtual machine, rather than just licensing Java, Google creating a world in which Java apps written for Android only run on Android, undermining Java's original mission.

"In developing Android, Google chose to use Java code without obtaining a license," reads a statement from Oracle in response to Google's filing. "Additionally, it modified the technology so it is not compliant with Java's central design principle to 'write once and run anywhere.' Google's infringement and fragmentation of Java code not only damages Oracle, it clearly harms consumers, developers and device manufacturers."

And then there's the truth that Android isn't as open as Google would like you to believe. Portions of the OS are closed, including the Android Marketplace and apps such as Gmail and Google Maps, and Google is careful to develop the latest version of the OS behind closed doors. Because certain tools are closed, Google maintains ample control over the design of handsets.

But Google's "open" discussion is about more than PR. In pointing out that Oracle once called for complete Java openness, it may be looking to counter any argument Oracle makes about the TCKs. Oracle once insisted that the TCK's be open sourced so they wouldn't be used to discriminate against compatible implementations of Java, Google said, but now refuses to open source the TCKs.

The rub — there's always another rub — is that Dalvik is not a compatible implementation of Java. It's an entirely separate VM. ®

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