API Design May Take On New Meaning When API Copyright Comes Into The Picture

In 2014 API design is exploding, proving to be one of the fastest growing areas of the API industry. For many years we’ve talked purely about API management, but after consolidation in the space, and serious growth, the conversation has shifted.

The API conversation is moving upstream in the API lifecycle, focusing on designing, mocking, and collaborating around designing the best quality APIs possible, that will meet the needs of consumers--before any code is written and deployed.

A new wave of API design companies have zeroed in on supporting healthy API design practices by providing tools like Apiary.io which allow you to mock, design and collaborate early on in API design process. This new wave of tools and service is meant to foster the healthiest possible design practices, and is cultivating an expanding army of knowledgeable API designers, who demonstrate that API design can be more art than science and technology.

Amid this rapid expansion we are witnessing the potentially damaging effects of the Oracle v Google legal battle, which is looking to inject unnecessary concerns around copyright into this blossoming API design sector. What will the copyright of APIs do to the API design process?

Will API design be as creative when you have to be concerned with designing unique interfaces vs creating with the best of breed API design patterns that are already available in the space? Will you design for quality of interfaces, the needs of your consumers and interoperability, the lifeblood of APIs, when you are focused on copyright and your API definitions become about legal protection and not access and innovation as they were intended?

If the precedent is set that copyright indeed applies to web APIs, I think that one of the chilling waves that will ripple through the industry will be extremely visible in the API design layer. API definitions are not one of the layers where control and monetization should be applied, allowing for more creative energy to exist, rather than being all business—monetization should occur in the API or front-end applications. Period.