Open source wins Java rights
Sun's grip shows signs of weakening The open source community won the rights to free implementation of the Java platform last week, weakening Sun Microsystem's iron grip on the development platform. The software giant has buckled following a campaign headed up by Apache on behalf of the open source community, which called on Sun to discontinue licences prohibiting Java compatible open source implementations, and make compatibility testing more accessible. Over the past few weeks, members of the Java Community Process (JCP) have been voting over amendments to the Java Specification Participation Agreement (JSPA), which is the legal agreement members sign with Sun when joining the JCP. Proposed mendments would allow Java implementations by open source groups and academic institutions. Although looking at the results it appears that Apache 'lost' its battle and that Sun has locked open source out of Java, comments submitted by the vendors forced Sun to acknowledge that Apache's stance on an "open and fair licensing scheme" for developing Java standards is shared by many vendors.
Many of the voting members, even those backing Sun, commented that they "would like to see more done to protect the interests of open source providers". The resultant pressure prompted a letter of intent from Robert Gingell, chairman of the JCP at Sun, detailing amendments to the JSPA in Apache's favour and "constituting a full meeting of Apache's requirements both in letter and in spirit". Currently, a Testing Compatibility Kit licence, which often costs tens of thousands of dollars, is required when performing an independent implementation of Java.
Apache has been pressing for the JSPA to require that all such licences are made easy to obtain by a non-profit (open source or academic) group. Gingell's letter of intent signifies a victory in this area.
But in case Sun reneges on this deal, Apache delivered a thinly veiled threat giving Sun 90 days to "turn words into actions".
The organisation said that it considers time to be "crucial in judging the success of the agreement", and that it "will be closely monitoring the implementation details of the contents of this agreement to ensure the gains represented by this agreement are not lost".