Java: no longer free as in speech

El Reg has breaking news that the JCP vote on the Java 7/8 JSR’s has passed. Apache and Google voted no, and the rest of the players sadly (but perhaps unsurprisingly) voted yes. This effectively changes the game around Java standards stewardship – you might say it turns the JCP into “Just Customers, Please“, removing any real community input that Oracle doesn’t choose to accept.

There are plenty of past links to learn about what this really means, and I’m sure that Stephen Colebourne will have some insightful commentary once he wakes up and has a cup of jav… er, tea.

A key indicator of the feeling of the JCP are the signing statements that most of the “Yes” voters supplied: all (except Oracle) agreed with Apache and Google that the FOU restrictions Oracle is mandating are objectionable and inappropriate (not to mention apparently incompatible with the JSPA). If only wishes were horses, and signing statements had real force, then we could all be happy.

I’m not that surprised that the larger software vendors cast their votes where they think their bottom lines are, and went with a “Yes”, FOU reservations in their signing statements notwithstanding. I am a little surprised that Eclipse and Red Hat caved into Oracle, given that their businesses are also open source, and they’re clearly going to have to pony up to Oracle somehow to get sufficient licenses to continue shipping Java related software.

Don’t get me wrong: for all the Java developers who don’t care about how their underlying technology is licensed, I’m happy for you! You now have Oracle’s Java roadmap, and presumably Oracle will start delivering some cool Java technology. But please: don’t fool yourself or your friends into believing that the Java standards ecosystem is open, free, or community based in any real way. Oracle owns the court now, and don’t be surprised if it starts charging some people for renting balls along with court time to play.

It’s a sad day, since I really do like programming in Java. I still will, sometimes; but not as often. And not without realizing that Java is no longer free as in speech. We’ll see how long that Java remains free as in beer, now that Oracle’s realized they run the JCP.

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Briefly, Shane is: a father and husband, a friend, a geek, a Member and director of the ASF, a baker, an ex-Loti, a BMW driver, a punny guy, a gamer, and lifelong resident within the 495 belt. Oh, and we have cats.

7 thoughts on “Java: no longer free as in speech”

  1. This is just a big “boo hoo” for you. Can you get any more soppy over this? I could care less if Oracle is “free as in speech”. I don’t think that really did anything for it except to appease all the free software people. Hey, maybe Oracle will be able to drive it in a good way now. Think about that. If you program in a language and are pondering whether that language is “free as in speech” then stop programming in that language. Sheesh.

    1. @Robert: thankfully, opinions are free on the internet. And I do plan to use Java for some programming tasks. But for many people – hard as it may be for you to believe – the licensing behind the software actually matters. For example, people who want to run small businesses, but can’t afford to pay Oracle license fees, perhaps. Or, people who are only interested in contributing new ideas to software that *is* available under a free and open source license, and who now will choose to abandon Java and switch to Python or Ruby or whatever. Or just plain indecisive but conservative IT departments who really don’t understand licensing details, but see all the controversy over Java currently, and decide to wait on making their next technology investments for a while.

      Good luck in using your Java, I really do hope you have fun. I just hope your customers understand what the future ramifications will be, in terms of FOU restrictions and future licensing schemes that Oracle unilaterally decides are in their best interests.

      1. I do understand the issue regarding the TCK trap as it is called and its incompatibility with the GPLv2. However, I have some issue wrt to your statement on “small businesses”. Most small businesses do not do a living by forking the OpenJDK nor rely on doing anything of the sort that might come into conflict with the terms of Java licensing. Neither them nor their users are afflicted in any way by this.

        This only matters to individuals and business that desire or need to do their implementation. … which are a very small fraction of the Java usage world. Either that or I’m missing something. I’m sympathetic to the dilemma faced by such companies and individuals. But I’m not sympathetic to claims that my costumers or the customers of the “general case” Java company must understand license ramifications that have nothing do with them.

        The other thing that I have issue is with the title of this blog post. Java has never been free as in speech. Ergo, it makes no sense to say that “it is no longer.”

        Why people say “it is no longer” when it never was in the first place? And why people deluded themselves into believing that a for-profit organization like Sun (now Oracle) would allow their free-under-X-Y-Z property (which Java is) to become open sourced? And why would people allowed that delusion to become both their casus belli AND the foundations of their business cases?

        This is a major case of the is-ought meta-ethics problem seeping through engineering and business cracks.

        Best regards,

        Luis Espinal.

      2. Oh, I forgot to add, with that being said, I think this would be a good opportunity for Java folks users (both affected and unaffected by these licensing) to utilize other platforms. Would be nice if Google were to come with an alternative platform and language (given that they are halfway there with their own VM.)

  2. My viewpoint exactly. Now Oracle is well aware that it is in total and complete control. The JCP has in one fell swoop become a joke and Google and Apache might as well simply leave. I think everyone is now free of any illusions about the other companies’ motivations now too. Saying yes while you shake your head no is called hypocrisy pure and simple.

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