Why is Sun Microsystems so afraid to let the Java community look at the license agreement for the Java SE 5 Java Compatibility Kit? The JCK is the test suite that third parties, such as the Apache Software Foundation, must use to demonstrate that their implementations of the Java SE virtual machine meet the specs.
Apache claims that the JCK license agreements contain terms, called “field of use restrictions,” that place limits on how people can use the software tested by the TCK. If this is true, then if Apache were to agree to Sun’s license conditions, its license would have to require that people who use its Harmony JVM agree not to use that JVM in a way that Sun doesn’t approve.
But does the JCK actually contain field of use restrictions—and if so, what precisely do those restrictions restrict? Sun refuses to say, insisting that the JCK license is confidential and proprietary.
Remember, we’re not talking about the JCK itself. We’re talking about the license for the JCK.
Last week, SD Times formally asked Sun to make a copy of the JCK license available to the Java community, so that we can all judge for ourselves if the license places unreasonable conditions on Apache or other licensees. Sun refused.
“The licenses are confidential and we are unable to accommodate your request. All public information is available on each of the JSR pages on the JCP.org site,” replied Jacquelyn Decoster, a spokesperson for the Java Community Process Program Management Office (JCP PMO). Some community, eh?
Following up that terse message, we sent her a series of questions about the JCK—at least, if Sun wouldn’t release the license terms, maybe they’d discuss it? We asked, for example, “Are the allegations by Apache (in the open letter) regarding the field of use conditions in the JCK license factually accurate? If they are not accurate, how can Sun demonstrate this to SD Times and to the Java community?”
We also asked if Sun derives a competitive advantage from keeping the JCK license secret—and if not, why is it confidential?
So far, Decoster only says, “I haven’t gotten any more specific answers for you.”
SD Times also asked Sun to comment on what Intel wrote in its vote on JSR 316 (Java EE 6): “The Spec Lead has told us there are no ‘field of use restrictions’ on implementations for this particular JSR.” We asked, “Can you confirm or deny the accuracy of Intel’s comment, that the spec lead told Intel that Sun will not include field of use restrictions in the Java EE 6 licenses? Can you comment on whether Sun stands behind what the spec lead allegedly told Intel?”
No comment from Sun. We wonder what the JCP PMO is hiding.