API copyrights and the GPL

Oracle has demonstrated that implementing an API is effectively the same as copying code from a program. To me, as a non-lawyer programmer, this surprising court decision seems to mutate copyrights into a kind of Software-Patent-Lite(tm) without the benefit of examiners or a 15 year term limit. This seems like a chilling new tool for deep pockets companies like Oracle to go about tormenting people. Thinking more deeply, however, you begin to wonder if Oracle hasn’t inadvertently created some kind of Free Software Doomsday weapon.

After all, if simply implementing an API makes you code a “derivative work” then doesn’t that mean the terms of the GPL will apply on any code that implements the API of a GPL’d system? Even if you didn’t copy code you have implemented that API and according to Oracle that’s a derived work. If you ask me, its the most excitingly vauge and contagious information phenomena since the Open Data Base License.