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Google copied Java in Android, expert says

By Nancy Gohring
January 21, 2011 07:02 PM ET

IDG News Service - An intellectual property expert has uncovered 43 instances where it appears that Google copied Java code without permission in the most recent versions of the Android operating system.

The discovery could challenge Google's defense in a dispute with Oracle over Java patents and copyright material in Android.

"The discovery process could be very fruitful for Oracle, and may become dreadful for Google," wrote Florian Mueller, who has been closely following the case and founded the NoSoftwarePatents campaign, in a blog post.

Mueller has closely examined the Android code and found six files, in addition to one that Oracle pointed out in its complaint, that are nearly identical to Java files. The files are found in Froyo, which is Android 2.2, and Gingerbread, Android 2.3.

In addition, Mueller points to 37 files in the Android code that include notices that say the code is proprietary to Sun.

"No matter what Google says, that copyright header is anything but a permission to relicense the file under the Apache Software License," Mueller wrote. Google licenses Android to users under the Apache license. "Even if one claimed that Oracle/Sun later made the file available under the GPL (for which I haven't found any conclusive evidence), that wouldn't allow such a license change either."

While there are some minor differences between the code that Google is using and the original Java code, Mueller found that the differences come from the use of a decompiler. When he used a Java decompiler called JAD and decompiled seven different Java files, he found that the result was nearly identical to files found in Android.

Google did not reply to a request for comment about Mueller's allegations.

One developer who writes for ZDnet, Ed Burnette, argued in a blog post that some of the code Mueller points to wouldn't be shipped in devices and has been deleted. Seven of the files are test code, which doesn't get shipped with the product, he said. In addition, those files were deleted from Android either late last year or in January, he said.

The remaining files are in a directory used for native code audio drivers for one kind of chip set, Burnette said. Those files also don't ship with Android, were probably uploaded by accident and should be deleted, he said.

However, Mueller says that the code in the test tree actually contains code related to security and that there are many Android devices that shipped with that code, as well as with the code from the remaining files.

Though the files are not in the current Android code tree, they were used in the two versions that currently make up more than half of the Android phones in use, he noted.

Reprinted with permission from Story copyright 2014 International Data Group. All rights reserved.
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