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Sun Microsystems

Jini and the Sun Community Source License (SCSL) 50

Julien Flack writes "JavaWorld has an interesting article on the Jini Community and its approach to open source. The Sun Community Source License (SCSL) "is an amalgam of open source principles and for-profit licensing models of the past." according to this article, which claims SCSL is in the spirit of ESR' Bazaar. "
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Jini and the Sun Community Source License (SCSL)

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  • by Anonymous Coward
    If you follow ESR's Open Source principles and purely economic arguments, licenses like this seem to have all the benefits of Open Source, and none of the disadvantages. That's where Richard Stallman's free software movement comes in. It does argue based on surface arguments of eceonomics. It argues based on principles of freedom, openness, and to large extent, on what users want. Licenses like this clearly do not hold up with Richard's arguments. ESR has been an incredibly effective Open Source advocate. As such, most of the newcomers into the movement (including Sun) only understand Open Source, and not free software.

    Partially for that reason, Richard (and most of the other original free software programmers and advocates) don't like Open Source, but prefer free software.
  • I remember one of my teachers doing a demonstration in which he had a vase with a ball inside it. If you tried to get the ball out by just sticking your hand in the vase and grabbing the ball, you can't pull your hand back out of the vase. The only way to get the ball out was to turn the vase upside-down and let the ball drop out. The moral of the demonstration was that to get what you want, sometimes you have to let go.

    Sun has tried to maintain too much control over Java, and the result has stunted its potential. Java was supposed to be write-once-run-anywhere, but by trying to keep their implementation proprietary, they discouraged Java from proliferating. If Sun had made their implementation free, source and all, it would have encouraged distribution, so that Java could indeed run anywhere, and discouraged alternative implementations--why bother making another implementation if one is readily available?

    If Sun gave Java away, they could have probably made a nice amount of money off Java apps. But they didn't, and Java is still kind of in its little corner.
  • Ah, but theres the rub. Any redistribution is under the SCSL and therefore won't really be open.

    Looks to me like Sun is trying to limit who is in their "community" and can receive code. This violates one of the Open Source principles.

    Besides, I think sun is niave if it thinks it can build a community like Linux has got. The Linux community built up around almost no rules (other than the GPL). The SCSL's redistribution limitations and compatibility requirements will be a serious hinderance.

    Chris
    --
    3rd Annual Atlanta Linux Showcase [linuxshowcase.org]

  • If you are Bill G., do you know how to buy Linux? Buy RMS!

    Interestingly, the very trait so many find irritating in RMS is the one that will make sure that doesn't happen. Some call him fanatic, I call him singularly determined.

  • >The very first thing I noticed is that it's much,
    >much more difficult for a layman to read and >understand than the GNU GPL is.

    Believe me, the GPL isn't easy for lawyers, either. For that matter, I'm not yet convinced (as a laywer) that it does what it thinks it does, or says it does, or that it is claimed it does; I'm not sure how much these intersect, either.

    >Now, everyone reading Slashdot knows how much
    >controversy, confusion and debate the GPL has >spawned -- imagine how much worse it would be if
    >the GPL had been written in this incomprehensible >style.

    Had the GPL been written in standard legalese, we wouldn't have these problems . . .

    hawk, esq.
  • by Stu Charlton ( 1311 ) on Friday July 16, 1999 @09:05AM (#1799478) Homepage
    Funny that - 21,000 paying developers at this year's JavaOne expo. Quite a cold reception.

    What's the problem with session ID's, again?

    Since you (or your predecessors) are the people who built the internet, you do realize that they can track you WITHOUT those, through webserver logs.

    That would logically mean that there probably was another reason for it. I mean, you're not one to give into silly conspiracy theories, are you?

    Oh wait, you forgot also that *SUN* helped build the internet - that Bill Joy pushed the use of TCP/IP commercially in the early 80's and actually WROTE the first UNIX-os that included a TCP/IP stack. Pity.

    These grandiose statements that "Sun is faling with Java among the 31337 programmer community" never cease to make me smile.

    The open source community's opinion does not reflect world opinion. I also question that the open source community is "technologically savvy" from a programming perspective. Talent is a rare thing in general, and while OSS is lucky to have several very talented programmers (Linus, Alan, Alfredo, etc.), it seems that those people aren't the type to blow-pipe over "Why XXX sucks", whereas the people who couldn't code themselves out of a box troll Slashdot with their ignorant drivel.

    Java is an over-hyped technology that doesn't provide any advancement in the art of programming. It is, however a valiant attempt at doing "objects over again", to make up where C++ and Smalltalk failed. [Not that these languages are failures, but in 1999, C++ is a technological mess, and Smalltalk is a business mess.]

  • You missed two important facts:

    1. There is always the choice of using the old license, so a new GPL can only remove restrictions on the old code, never create more restrictions.

    2. The FSF sends a contract to everyone who donates code, which guareentees that the code will remain free. The contract is almost as detailed about this as the GPL, and leave _very_ little room for changes.

  • 1. I consider it less problematic that GPL'ed software might lose some restrictions than if it gained them.

    2. As I wrote, the contract is quote detailed and leave very little room for change. Unfortunately, I only have paper copies of the contract. Maybe someone else can refer to an online copy.
  • by ChrisRijk ( 1818 ) on Friday July 16, 1999 @04:22AM (#1799481)
    Not only is there jini.org [jini.org], Sun have setup jiro.com [jiro.com] (there is a jiro.org too, but that bounces to jiro.com) for sorting out a platform neutral high-end storage management framework. Basically, it seems Sun's "community source" method of software development is becoming their preferred method of developing software.

    They haven't outright and clear said so yet, but there are very strong hints that they plan to make most, and perhaps eventually, all of their software "community source".

    At the JavaOne developer conference recently, this is what Bill Joy said [sun.com]:

    • Finally, in order to get all of this to work, we've been searching ever since we started Sun almost 20 years ago now for finding ways to work with you all. The JavaOne conference is an incredible example of a community of people getting together and doing great things. We originally started with the idea of "open systems", which means that we'd publish APIs and sell implementations, but that many people could produce implementations of those APIs.

      Next there's this idea for the Java platform. We tried to create a community and protect it from a predatory company that we were aware of that was likely to try to attack us with contract law, and discovered that contracts sometimes aren't enough to protect us because not everyone thinks they apply to them.

      So what we've decided to do going forward is to try to work from a notion of community. You've seen the Java Community Process (JCP). The JCP allows stakeholders in the different areas, like the people who care about realtime to define the realtime stuff, and that's a really good thing.

      More recently we've done Community Source, which is an attempt to blend the best things about open source and proprietary models together with the added benefit from open source that when you take a Community Source license, you're allowed to make proprietary enhancements to it. We still insist that you leave the APIs open, but you can take large chunks of commercial money and make commercial investments. This works for companies.

      The open source model works for other communities, and for them it's great. But we wanted to come up with a model that would work for traditional companies as well, so that we could quickly move into Community Source as much of our intellectual property as possible, and hopefully all of it going forward. But we insist also that people remain compatible.

      So Community Source has an additional right and an additional responsibility relative to open source. We've done this with a lot of our technology already, including picoJava, and Java and Jini technologies. We'll be doing it with more.

    I think they way they're going with Jini is pretty good. They could do better for Java though. They're being kinda closed about what they're going to open though, and have only dropped hints and not made definite statements on their website.

    However, some things they have hinted/said are: they will open up Solaris later this year. Also, on one of their Solaris pages they say they'll be making a new version of Solaris (presumably Solaris 8) available under their "easy access" (ie beta) program - they've never done that before. They also seem to be working on making their C/C++ development software and compilers available, and to Linux users as well - to help develop code that works on Linux and Solaris more easily. They've also made other things not mentioned in that article available under their "community source".

    They do seem pretty serious about it.

  • Although many slashdot readers are patriots of the GNU Public License, I believe SCSL is good. It protects Sun's investment, but it also lets developers have their way. It isn't quite in the fashion of Eric Raymond's view of open source, but it is very good nonetheless.
  • If you feel strongly about the difference between GPL, BSD, MIT, SCSL, MPL etc licences, you should not use GPL as is. At lease specify GPL v2 only.
    FROM GPL v2:
    9. The Free Software Foundation may publish revised and/or new versions of the General Public License from time to time. Such new versions will be similar in spirit to the present version, but may differ in detail to address new problems or concerns.
    Each version is given a distinguishing version number. If the Program specifies a version number of this License which applies to it and "any later version", you have the option of following the terms and conditions either of that version or of any later version published by the Free Software Foundation. If the Program does not specify a version number of this License, you may choose any version ever published by the Free Software Foundation.

    So GPL v3+ could be something similar to SCSL or worse. Point is GPL v3+ can be anything! You, as author, have no control over it. Sure, you can release a new version of your software under another licence. There is no termination in GPL, therefore people can chose to use GPL v3+ on the existing version of your software even if you object to its terms!

    If you are Bill G., do you know how to buy Linux? Buy RMS!

  • You missed two important facts:

    No I didn't.

    1. There is always the choice of using the old license, so a new GPL can only remove restrictions on the old code, never create more restrictions.

    Users have the choice. You the author don't! May be I don't want less restrictions. Do you like BSD?

    2. The FSF sends a contract to everyone who donates code, which guareentees that the code will remain free. The contract is almost as detailed about this as the GPL, and leave _very_ little room for changes.

    Sure, but what kind of _free_? GPL vs BSD vs SCSL vs OSI vs Artistic vs MPL etc. Some people have very strong feeling against some of them.
    If you don't like say Artistic lic. but GPL v3 become Artistic-like. There is nothing you (the author) can do. The user can pick GPL v2 or v3. Can't terminate the lic. either!

    Do you know how to buy Linux? Buy RMS!

  • We had a press release a few weeks ago from a Sun staffer who said that AOL/Netscape was considering using their development paradigm rather than Open Source. AOL/Netscape said they had no such plans and that the Sun staffer was talking out of place.

    Now, another Sun staffer claims Open-Source-like attributes when the SCSL is clearly not Open Source. More distortion.

    Does it seem that Sun is grasping at straws here? IBM has released a license for its Java compiler that is compliant with the Open Source Definition. A Java VM is available under the GPL from Transvirtual. Other Java components under bona-fide free software licenses are in process. You don't have to go to Sun for Java any longer.

    The most laughable part is that they feel the SCSL is necessary for real companies, and that those companies would not participate in Open Source. Yet, IBM, Apple, and many others belie that claim.

    I think Sun has learned some valuable lessons from the Linux development. They just haven't been able to accept them yet. When they do, the SCSL will go away.

    Thanks

    Bruce Perens

  • The article got this a bit wrong. Sun is willing to help shepard some important efforts. We don't require sheparding -- if you want to work on your own, feel free. In fact we usually turn down sheperding requests because we don't have very many engineers to do the work and most efforts aren't critical enough to the overall success of Jini technology. (It isn't that they aren't important, we just can't help everyone who asks.)
  • But they must be able to retain direct control over the Java environment. If they did not, anyone could go off and create their own Java that is not compatible with Sun's. Microsoft did this even with the restrictions in place.

    Java's key feature is its platform independence. Anyone can implement an open standard, but can you run a Solaris program on DEC UNIX?
  • Bill Day (The author of the article) (working for Sun) says:
    • The SCSL is an amalgam of open source principles and for-profit licensing models of the past. It has been crafted in the spirit of openness avowed in Eric Raymond's now-famous article, "The Cathedral and the Bazaar"
    ESR says [tuxedo.org]:
    • 9.6 Free the Software, Sell the Brand This is a speculative business model. You open-source a software technology, retain a test suite or set of compatibility criteria, then sell users a brand certifying that their implementation of the technology is compatible with all others wearing the brand. (This is how Sun Microsystems ought to be handling Java and Jini.)
    Bill says it is open, ESR says it is not. So who is right?
    The JINI FAQ says:
    • 28. Can code under the GNU Public License (GPL) be incorporated into the Jini technology code base?
      No. Under the terms of the GPL you may not provide Products under a license that may contain more restrictive terms
    I guess the answer is clear.
  • The license compels you to make your software free and open source. Any modifications that are made to the software must be published if it is to be used for profit. It is very GPLish in the way that it forces openess to people who use the software.
  • I think the SCSL is a very interesting license, not an unreasonable thing for Sun to do. Make no mistake, Sun isn't doing this out of altruism. They need Java products such as Jini to be used by everyone, so they have to make them somewhat open. At the same way, Sun needs to retain control of the platform in order to guarantee themselves ownership and eventual revenue. The SCSL is an interesting way for Sun to walk this line while also getting some of the benefits of a community developing the source code to something.

    Unfortunately, the Jini Community Process as they are running it isn't quite open enough for me. In particular, the requirements for joining the "Jini community" add friction to the process. You can't just have an open mailing list where people exchange ideas and code, you have to work behind a passworded web site. It may seem like a small thing, but it's kept me from participating.
  • And others would say that after a rocky start Mozilla is coming along nicely, and the project includes a fair number of non-Netscape contributors.

    I'll let you in on a secret about the license: the "Netscape-takes-all" bit is a misfeature only of source files contributed by Netscape itself under the Netscape Public License. As significant code is added by non-Netscape developers under the base Mozilla Public License--which doesn't grant special rights to Netscape--then this special right becomes meaningless. Netscape's special relicensing rights would then only apply to a partial product missing key features.

    As one example, the XML parser was contributed by James Clark under the MPL (and dual-licensed with the GPL). What kind of browser does Netscape have "special rights" over without an XML parser? Since all the UI is generated from an XML dialect it certainly wouldn't be a working browser.

  • Don't be too hard on Sun. Without Sun, there wouldn't be Java, which has LOTS of really nice features (as well as a few bone-headed ones).
    And without Java, Kaffe and gj2c (or whatever Cygnus ends up calling their project) wouldn't exist.
  • So, like, I figured I should read this license to figure out what's up. I looked around a bit and eventually found it [sun.com].

    The very first thing I noticed is that it's much, much more difficult for a layman to read and understand than the GNU GPL [gnu.org] is. Now, everyone reading Slashdot knows how much controversy, confusion and debate the GPL has spawned -- imagine how much worse it would be if the GPL had been written in this incomprehensible style. The SCSL has no preamble which explains the intent of the license; and in order to make any sense of the text of the license, one must continually refer to the license's Glossary to figure out what is meant by all of the Capitalized Words. The SCSL is actually three or more separate licenses all concatenated together, and you have to read a meta-license to determine which of the sublicene(s) apply to you.

    So, while I didn't bother reading all of the license, I got the following out of it:

    • The software is only free (in the Debian Free Software Guidelines [debian.org] sense) for Research Use. You can't use the software freely if you actually have a job. (The Internal Deployment Use sub-license isn't free, either.)

    • For any other use (including commercial use), there are unacceptable limitations. You can't distribute modifications, and you can't disassemble or reverse engineer executables.

    The last thing I noticed, after I quit reading the license in disgust, was that there was a "session ID" appended to the URL. It seems that Sun wanted to track me as I browsed their site. Naughty Sun! (The actual URL that I got for the license when I finally got to it was http://www.sun.com/jini/licensing/scsl_jcp_v.1.6c_ web.html;$sessionid$E5HGUBAAAV2LDAMU VFZE3NQ -- but I snipped the "session ID" garbage from the end before adding the license link in the first paragraph.

    Does Sun really think that programmers are so bone-headed that we won't see right through all of their little tricks? We (or our predecessors) are the people who built the Internet! We aren't stupid, and we notice details. Your lawyers can't bury us with avalanches of mumbo-jumbo, because we programmers will eventually pick our way through the maze and find the rotten trash you dropped at the exit.

    By playing these petty little power games with us, Sun only continues to alienate us. This is why Java has met with such a cold reception among the technologically savvy user and programmer community -- Sun doesn't want to play by the rules.

    Well, just remember that the ultimate power is ours, not theirs. We have the power to disregard Sun's offerings until they come up with a way to work with us instead of against us. Sun isn't offering anything we need -- they're trying to grow a market. We've already got the tools and the talent to go our own direction, without Sun's poisoned candy. So while Sun keeps shooting itself in the foot and feeding fluff to the "HTML coders", we can go on with our lives.

  • Thank you, Bruce. I hope that I'm speaking for most when I say that your contributions are very helpful in sorting out the issues surrounding OSS.

    Sun's strategy is rather confusing IMHO. I attended JavaOne 98 and I believe I remember McNealy or one of the top executives saying that Sun has come to the realization that they are really a software company that also happens to sell hardware for running their software. To go truly open-source would be a radical shift, don't you think? At least with SCSL they can still make money.

    However, as ESR recently pointed out, software companies may be suffering the illusion that they are manufacturing companies when really they ought to be making their money as services and consulting companies. Do you believe that if Sun were to shift to true open-source, that their revenue would actually increase? They already provide top-dollar support services. Their OS probably has the best reputation of all for enterprise-class tasks. They are probably making a good sum from the Java training programs. If they took a leap of faith, it's possible that a lot of people would see Sun as the right solution provider for big tasks.

    Have I fallen off my rocker? :)
  • I haven't read the license in detail myself (just skimmed it), but Sun's new license may have some legal ramifications for other companies that agree to work under its terms. I know that my company's lawyers have recommended that NO ONE within my company accept the conditions of the license, lest it affect our ability to protect our own intellectual property.

    Can anyone clarify this potential? Is this a valid concern, or just another case of corporate misunderstanding the spirit of open-source?
  • > Jini development team at Sun, acting as "shepherds" for new projects and working groups

    A rather interesting attitude towards future developers, so long as you stay within the nice little fenced-in commercially viable paddock available, you won't get eaten by those nasty wolves (or penguins) that are out there to steal
    your code and ideas :-{.

    Does controlled chaos really work? Can they motivate week-end hobbyists to become mercenary developers, much less cynical ISVs? What are the motivating factors to encourage individuals to excel? All the greedy capitalists are forming startups, all the zealots are gnuing away, and the erratic geniuses are beavering away on the glory of Linux. Who's left to grab developer's mindshare from?

    Given the complexity of software systems nowadays, I suspect the limiting factorfor growth is the learning curve and ease of development. It will be interesting in the medium term to see how well Java/Jini ranks against Windows and Linux as the developer's playground.

    LL
  • Yeah, but they'll never get the SCSL certified by OSI as an Open Source license unless they give people the essential right to distribute modifications.
    -russ
  • So if Sun's stuff is Open Source, how come it's not OSI Certified(tm) Open Source?? The answer is that it's not Open Source and it's not free(libre) software. Explain to me again how this is ESR's fault?
    -russ
  • Nobody's telling you what to do. If you don't like Open Source, don't use the term. If you don't want your software certified as Open Source, don't ask us (OSI) for certification. Isn't freedom wonderful?
    -russ
  • RMS mostly complains about Open Source because the name lacks the magical word "free". I complain about "free" software because there are three meanings of "free": freely-copyable, zero-cost, and junk. RMS overestimates the value of "free", particularly in these here United States, where "free" (meaning liberty) is a four-letter word.
    -russ
  • yay RMS !! Actually i release all my software under the GPL only cause i trust RMS. and a *lot* of other developers do.
  • Now, another Sun staffer claims Open-Source-like attributes when the SCSL is clearly not Open Source.

    He claimed open-source-like attributes; he did not claim it was Open Source.

    He seems very straight-forward to me.

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