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Flashback to 17 March 2005: Sun Relaxes Its Java Licensing Posture

"We're Trying to Simplify, As Best We Can, All the Legalistics," Says Sun Fellow Graham Hamilton

Sun is set to introduce new licensing guidelines that are designed to make it easier for developers to use Java source code. Sun said that it does not intend to make Java available as an open source license. Rather, the new Java licensing rules are to be much simpler, according to Sun, encouraging developers to create commercial Java-based products.

The move is in response to ongoing competition from Microsoft and open-source development alternatives. "We're trying to simplify, as best we can, all the legalistics involving application development," said Sun Fellow Graham Hamilton.

Sun has over the years made changes to various Java licenses but this is the first initiative to overhaul its commercial Java license.

Sun is going to introduce a "Java Internal User License" (JIUL), aimed at its enterprise Java customers and a "Java Distributed License," which will take the place of the current commercial license for J2SE.

Jean Elliott, director of product marketing for Sun's Java 2 Standard Edition, told a reporter yesterday: " We'd like to see [the commercial license] be like the human tail and eventually go away, because we felt it was excessively complicated."

Sun's Matt Thompson - Director of Tech Outreach and Open Source Programs - last week said in a Technical Exchange panel discussion called "Empowering Software R&D with Open Communities" held in the Hyatt Regency Harbor Room at the EclipseCon 2005 conference:

"Right now, you can do pretty much anything you want with the Java source code for non-commercial purposes except fork it and call it Java. If you do that, we have a problem."

Which prompted JDJ's own Bill Dudney, speaking exclusively to JDJ News Desk, to say:

"I am ready to see closure on this issue. At JavaOne Sun was saying that they could see no benefit in making Java more open. I think they were wrong and I'm glad to hear that the forces to open Java are apparently pushing Sun towards that end."

Dudney continued:

"I also agree though that we don't need forked incompatible things called Java that are not, that would just serve to confuse the market. I hope to see an open Java with an open compliance suite, then we can be confident that we have the 'real thing' when using something called Java."

Now Sun's move to review its commercial license is certain to be examined with a fine-tooth comb by Java developers everywhere.

More Stories By Java News Desk

JDJ News Desk monitors the world of Java to present IT professionals with updates on technology advances, business trends, new products and standards in the Java and i-technology space.

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Most Recent Comments
webdevguy 03/17/05 07:13:53 PM EST

It's about time that Sun relaxes their software EULA  the current one is a straight jacket! Sun get serious about open sourcing Java.

DaliborTopic 03/17/05 03:35:24 PM EST

||| seems Sun is gonna change their license at this point so every Linux distribution can distribute the JRE and support Java out of the box. |||

Nope. The JRL only allows research use - no distributions.

The JDL only allows distributing after passing the costly test suite - no (volunteer based) distributions.

The JIUL will only allow *internal* use - no distributions

Ranx 03/17/05 03:33:33 PM EST

Until now, you are only allowed to distribute the JRE with Java software. This has always been an problem for creators of Linux distributions who like to include Java in their distribution.

I seems Sun is gonna change their license at this point so every Linux distribution can distribute the JRE and support Java out of the box.

This is probably the most important part of the license change

provocateur 03/17/05 03:32:04 PM EST

Surely an open source Java would open the door to an MS modified version of the JRE being bundled with (but not part of) Windows or IE?

Dave Naylor 03/17/05 03:08:58 PM EST

Sun will never open source Java. Why? Because with an open source JVM, the revenue for J2ME is gone. Instead of innovating with Java we have to put up with yet another license.

Java Just Works 03/17/05 02:47:47 PM EST

%%So, what do you think about when you think about Sun? Computers, networks, operating systems... and Java. There's the problem, because Java is boring. Java is the safe choice.%%

Sure it's boring. It works. Just works and works....

Read This 03/17/05 02:45:40 PM EST

Anyone see Tim Bray's blog (http://www.tbray.org/ongoing/When/200x/2005/03/15/OneSunYear) on March 15: "So, what do you think about when you think about Sun? Computers, networks, operating systems... and Java. There's the problem, because Java is boring. Java is the safe choice. Java is COBOL. You won't get fired for choosing Java. Banks use Java. Telephone companies use Java. CIOs like Java...it's not exciting. J2EE isn't either. EJBs aren't either. Generics and autoboxing and variable-length argument lists are good things, but theyre not exciting."

finkployd 03/17/05 02:09:08 PM EST

Sun's relationship with MS came about because of their Java efforts. They used their position as the "controllers" of Java to stop MS from bundling an incompatible version of Java (embrase and extend, as it were) with Windows, and got them to stop and give Sun a ton of money. Now I am no fan of Java anyway (I do mostly C), but had Java been truely open source, nobody would be able to stop MS from doing this.

jeif1k 03/17/05 02:07:53 PM EST

Sun's behavior towards open source (e.g., Schwartz's rantings, their fake patent grant, their Java efforts, their attempt to position Solaris against Linux, etc.) show that Sun is not an unequivocal supporter of free software or open source software.

Propeetary vs Non-Proprietary 03/17/05 02:05:21 PM EST

The lines seem to be drawing themselves out - on one side, we have Sun, Microsoft; on the other, it's IBM, Red Hat, Novell and the rest of the pro-Linux crowd.

And then there is HP, trying to do a dance right in the middle, but getting smacked by the fodder coming from both sides.

Neale Napier 03/17/05 01:59:44 PM EST

Whilst I can see the benefits of open sourcing java I just can't see how any open source organisation can take on something as big as Java especially the J2EE side of things with the compatibility suites used to certify J2EE compliance. Also, as a Java certified engineer, what will happen to any certification program?

IMHO - Open sourcing java is a nice idea in theory but not in practice.

m50d 03/17/05 01:34:29 PM EST

There are three different open source attempts to write a Java setup. At least one of them happened for the sole reason that Sun's one is not open source so couldn't be included in Debian. So if it was open source from the start there would be at least one less fork.

The fact is refusing to open the language has not prevented it forking, it has encouraged more forking to happen. You could argue that the greater ease of forking from having the full setup available to start your fork would have led to more forking, but I doubt it because people dislike "unofficial" versions. Especially if they kept the trademark, I can't imagine any non-Sun forks gaining popularity unless they were at least 20% better than Sun's, in which case the benefit from those improvements probably outweighs the damage done by forking.

Sun quote re 'forking' 03/17/05 01:32:14 PM EST

"Sun has elected not to use an open-source license at this time because its commercial customers are concerned with 'forking,' or the creation of incompatible editions of the base Java software"

an00n 03/17/05 01:28:30 PM EST

Believe it or not: Java is Sun's next cash machine. Many people don't realize that Sun is beginning to cash-in big amounts of dollars from Java. That's because any Java-enabled Phone, PDA, Digital TV set-top-box, or gadget-du-jour means a royalty to them, up to $1/box. There are already several millions of these gizmos, and a lot more are to come in the next years with the advent of HDTV. Sun is even lobbying to put Java within DVD players (in order to replace the crappy system used to author interactive menus, that is).

Why on earth would they open-source something that looks like the next golden goose ? That would be pure business suicide.

Wake up people. It's all about the money ! Not about "forking" and other stupid claims made to distract the open-source zealots from the real issue.

linguae 03/17/05 01:24:33 PM EST

It would be great for all developers if Java were open sourced under an agreeable, OSI-compliant license. Developers of "unsupported" platforms would be able to port the JDK to their favorite operating systems (and redistribute sources and binaries of the JDK, too), which would raise the number of developers using Java, which in turn raises the number of people using Java-based applications. Next, I don't think Sun has to worry much about Java being forked. Look at C, C++, Python, Perl, and Ruby. C and C++ are ANSI-certified, and Perl, Python, and Ruby are open source. As far as I know, there aren't any forks of C, Perl, and the other languages that I've listed.