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Supreme Court Asks White House To Weigh In On Copyrightability Of APIs

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Back during an earlier round of the never-ending legal dispute between Oracle and Google concerning whether or not APIs can be covered by copyright the Supreme Court requested that the White House weigh in on its opinion -- leading then Solicitor General Donald Verrilli (formerly a top lawyer for the MPAA) to weigh in with what we argued was a painfully clueless brief. The underlying issue here, from the very beginning, revolves almost entirely around the simple point: do you actually understand what an API is? If you do -- and recognize that it's fundamentally different from executing software code -- then this is an easy case. An API is simply an instruction set -- a recipe of sorts -- for being able to interface with a particular program. And US copyright law is clear that copyright cannot apply to any "idea, procedure, process, system, method of operation, concept, principle, or discovery."An API is easily covered by that designation, but because you have non-technical lawyers who can't understand the difference between software operating code (which is copyrightable) and an API (which is not) they argue that the two are virtually identical, and thus APIs should be covered by copyright. Tragically, that argument worked at the appeals court (it didn't work at the district court, where Judge Alsup already had some coding history and famously taught himself how to program in Java to better understand the facts of the case).Now that the case is back on appeal to the Supreme Court, looking specifically at questions of fair use around the reuse of an API, the Supreme Court has (somewhat oddly) asked the White House to weigh in again. As part of its Monday orders it invited the White House to give its opinion on whether or not it should even hear the case (not yet on the actual merits of either side's case):

The Solicitor General is invited to file a brief in thiscase expressing the views of the United States.
Of course, there's a very different White House with a very different Solicitor General. Of course, I have no idea if the current Solicitor General's office knows anything about coding or knows why an API is not operating code, and it seems like a total crapshoot to expect the Solicitor General to have an informed opinion on this matter. So it's not entirely clear why the Supreme Court expects it will -- but now that it's asked, we should probably expect something from the White House on this issue. As has been noted in the past, when the Supreme Court does ask the Solicitor General to weigh in, it often has an impact on the case -- especially when the question is simply on whether or not the Supreme Court should hear the case in the first place. Given that, one hopes that the Solicitor General will support the petition to hear the case and revisit the CAFC's ongoing confusion over copyright law.

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Nintendo Slays The Threat From Modded Nintendo Games For The Commodore 64

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Any review of the recent posts we've done on gaming giant Nintendo would certainly reveal a disappointing trend. That trend appears to be the company, which has always maintained an aggressively tight grip on its IP, upping its efforts to take down all kinds of ROM sites, fan-made games, and gaming leaks. Gamers here may also already be aware that there is something of an odd fascination in gaming communities with the Commodore 64, an 8-bit gaming computer created way back in 1982 and discontinued in the early 90s. There are thriving modding and porting communities dedicated to figuring out how to get the C64 to do things it was never intended to do.Which perhaps makes it surprising that it was only in the last week or so that someone figured out how to get a working C64 to be able to play a port of the original Super Mario Bros. The whole enterprise appears to have nothing to do with wanting to play an illicit copy of the 80s game and everything instead to do with a community of enthusiasts simply tinkering and seeing what could be pulled off for fun. Getting Mario on a Commodore apparently took something like seven years and was hailed as an achievement by the Commodore community. Reactions such as the below are indicative of the responses.

What an achievement. It runs great on my C128D, with slowdowns on the later, more busy levels. But overall, really really impressive.
You get the idea. Much better, it appears, than Nintendo does, which of course waited for the release of years of enthusiastic work before DMCAing everything it could find about this release.
Links to the image squirreled away on hosting platforms started to go down, with the suspicion that the Japanese gaming giant was behind the deletions. Seven years of hard work taken down with a few lines of text. Early this morning, the Commodore Computer Club revealed that it too had been hit with a copyright notice, effectively confirming that Nintendo was behind the action against Super Mario Bros. 64.It doesn’t really come as a surprise that Nintendo has targeted the project. The company has been extremely busy in recent months taking down sites that offer ROMs that infringe on its copyrights. Furthermore, Super Mario Bros. is also available on its Game Boy, Wii U, and Switch platforms, so the ….erm….Commodore 64…is also a market threat.
No, it absolutely is not a threat. This is plainly ridiculous. We can stipulate all we want that Nintendo is within its rights to issue these takedowns... but why? Seriously, what the hell is the point of taking down this labor of love and geek enthusiasm? Does Nintendo truly suspect there are tons of people out there who have been sitting by with their Commodore 64s, or their emulators, just waiting for this release of Super Mario Bros. in order to play it, instead of buying it on one of Nintendo's current generation consoles?No, of course not. This was tinkering for the sake of tinkering. Or perhaps for some bragging rights. Whatever all of this is, it's not a threat to sales of Super Mario Bros.But Nintendo's going to Nintendo, I suppose. Because, gamers, as I keep telling you, Nintendo hates you.

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