Java/Linux open source

Ron Resnick (
Sun, 03 Jan 1999 21:59:01 +0200

Robert S. Thau wrote:

> Errmmmm --- source code *was* provided to all users of Bell Labs
> Research Unix at least through v6 or so. (They did not have
> permission to redistribute, of course, but neither do users of Minix;
> the Minix license requires royalties for redistribution of source).

So, is that "open source", or "Open Source" :-)..

Seriously, if one buys into Eric Raymond's argument, redistribution is
a key element of true OSS (I'm not saying I buy this argument
myself, mind you..). This (redistribution)
is a key argument made against the new
Sun SCSL structure, incidentally.

Had AT&T code been generally, widely, unquestionably
available throughout the 70s and 80s, would we have had the BSD/SYSV
split? Would we have had the Unix wars of HPUX/AIX/SCO etc, right
at the time that MS was about to steal away the whole show? For that
matter, would AT&T have made any less money off their property, than
they ultimately did when they sold (to Novell, right? And then on to
SCO?). Who's to say - maybe yes, maybe no.

I don't think there's much of a point to argue here, frankly -
technically you're right, but in terms of OSS philosophy, at least
in the modern 1990s Stallman/Raymond view of it, Unix was
not "open source". Yet it ultimately led to "true" OSS knockoffs,
particularly Linux. In that sense, I stand by my point to Dan -
the fact that some piece of software
isn't pure OSS doesn't make it evil, in and of itself. The OSS
bandwagon is very trendy to climb aboard, and I'm a'climbin' along
with most everyone else these days, but lets keep our heads here!
Commercial software isn't evil in and of itself
(unless its MS of course, in which case it's not evil,
it's just inferior, snigger snigger..)

If Dan doesn't want to use or reference IBM no-source tools - that's
his right. But taken to an extreme, this attitude is biting your
nose to spite your face.

> > ... I dare say the
> > first C compiler came source-less.
> It came with source, as part of the above-mentioned Unix releases.
> Granted, that source was a mass of obscure and nearly uncommented
> PDP-11 assembler, but it is what the author of the compiler used to
> produce the binaries...

> > Sun has released Jini with sources, and are rolling out a
> > comprehensive "Sun Community License" under which they will be
> > releasing Java itself, - the whole kit & kaboodle - with some
> > form of "free" source license.
> Do you know if Sun has released the actual text of the license itself
> (or a draft)? I've seen quite a bit about Sun's *intentions* (open
> access to source, but no distribution of modified versions unless you
> pass a compatibility test --- which they haven't made generally
> available in the past --- and pay royalties), but I haven't yet seen
> draft text of the license. I may be missing something...

Well, you took the liberty of chopping my words above. You appear
to intimate that Sun's willingness to be a true OSS convert may be
less than first meets the eye - and I share these suspicions!
In addition to the words above, I wrote:
> with some
> form of "free" source license. The meaning of "free' is still being
> disputed - check slashdot for lots of discussion of this - but
> there's no doubt that Java is being strongly pulled in the direction
> of open source.

There's lots of dispute about just how 'free' the SCSL really will be.
The fact that Sun appears to reserve the right to charge royalties
once you go commercial with a product makes the whole thing seem,
to me, a bit like front-load and back-load mutual fund sales. You
have to pay a commission - the only question is, do you pay up
front or at the end?

Anyway, you ask for specifics on the SCSL - this is what I'm
aware of right now:

There's a "Community Source License Principles" document
coauthored by Bill Joy at
In it, they claim:
> Community Source creates a community of widely available software
> source code just as does the Open Source model, but with two
> significant differences requested by our licensees, as follows:
> - compatibility among deployed versions of the software is
> required and enforced through testing
> - proprietary modifications and extensions including performance
> improvements are allowed
> These important differences and other details make Community
> Source a powerful combination of the best of the proprietary
> licensing and the more contemporary open source technology
> licensing models.

So, that doc is still just a touchy-feely "principles" document - not
a legal license. For legalese, the only known exhibits I'm aware of
are the two Jini licenses: JCP & JSK -

- the Jini Technology Core Platform (JCP) license has the
sources for the various Jini services: Events, Leasing, Transactions
(I've pulled the JCP sources down -
not really much there, since the interfaces
are so vague & thin, there's not a whole lot of meat to put behind

- the Jini Technology Software Kit (JSK), which has the source
for the implementation of the Lookup & transaction managers Sun
provides in their "ref impl." of Jini, I guess you could call it.
I haven't pulled these sources down.

Now, I haven't read either of the licenses (JCP or JSK) at the cited
URLs myself -
legal verbiage just ain't my thing. If there's an informed attorney
opinion on FoRK about these docs, I'd be very interested to hear
informed views on these.

I think the general belief is that if/when Sun starts to roll out source
licenses for the rest of Java, they will look pretty similar to the
JCP & JSK - Jini is serving as a guniea pig here.

> rst


(Hey Robert - I've been messing around with latex2html lately,
and saw your name all over the docs - cool :). You really do
get into some interesting projects, don't you? latex2html, apache,
what are you working on these days?)