Sun Easing JCP Licensing Rules

Company addressing Apache Software Foundation's issues, saying changes are now in the works.

The Apache Software Foundation in February took Sun Microsystems Inc. to task for hindering open-source implementations through rules associated with the workings of the Java Community Process.

The foundation said the Palo Alto, Calif., company focused on agreements related to Suns JSRs (Java Specification Requests), which are necessary to implement Java in various systems, architectures and environments.

On the eve of Suns JavaOne developer conference here last week, Robert Gingell, a Sun fellow and vice president and chairman of the JCP, posted a response to the foundations concerns, saying changes were being made to alleviate its worries.

The JCPs proposed changes meet "both the letter and, more importantly, the spirit of what Apache has required," Gingell said on the JCP Web site. The news of the proposed changes pleased some in the open-source community.

"J2EEs [Java 2 Enterprise Editions] support for Web services [which was announced last week] is important, but the important news this week is the Java Community Process attempt to make peace with the Apache Software Foundation," said Stuart Holloway, chief technology officer at DevelopMentor Inc., a Los Angeles-based software development training and consulting company. "The open-source community is a necessary ally in designing and implementing the Java APIs for Web services, and it is encouraging to see the JCP taking note of that fact."

"Apaches very excited about this change," said Jason Hunter, vice president of the foundation, based in Forest Hill, Md. "Having a solid open-source implementation of these standards gives us a lot we can build on."

"I believe we just made the Java community both tighter and much stronger with one move," said Sun Chairman and CEO Scott McNealy in his JavaOne keynote address.

The foundation said the JSPA (Java Specification Participation Agreement), which governs participation in the JSR process, needs to ensure that a JSR specification license wont prohibit a compatible, independent, open-source implementation of the JSR.

The foundation also urged that licenses be granted to an expert group to release its own reference implementation or TCK (test compatibility kit) under an open-source license and that an expert group be allowed to publicize its discussion and drafts.

Furthermore, the foundation said the JSPA must make all TCK licenses easier and less costly for an open-source or academic group to attain.

Suns Gingell said an initial draft of the JCPs proposed changes to the JSPA, and a recent revised draft, should alleviate those concerns. The initial draft addressed the issue of allowing for compatible, open-source implementations of the JSR within the agreement.

Other issues are dealt with in the revised draft of the proposed changes to the JSPA, which will be voted on later this year by both executive committees of the JCP, according to Gingell.