Monday, November 13, 2006

Sun Makes a Really Great Mess

In a shock move, Sun Microsystems, every geek's favorite non-profit corporation, released Java ME and SE today under - get this - the GNU General Public License version 2.

Do they have any idea what they did to the industry? I don't think so. Sun seems to be claiming that Java programs which run on a GPL'd Java Virtual Machine are not "derivative works" of the Java language.

A derivative work in the GPL is defined as it is under copyright law, namely, "a work containing the Program or a portion of it, either verbatim or with modifications and/or translated into another language."

The question is whether a Java program will be considered a derivative work of Java (such as when you extend Java.lang.Object or use reflection) by any court, anywhere, under any nation's copyright law. That it will happen somewhere seems likely to me and incredibly dangerous to the Java industry.

Why is this such a problem? Because the GPL says, "But when you distribute the same sections as part of a whole which is a work based on the Program, the distribution of the whole must be on the terms of this License, whose permissions for other licensees extend to the entire whole, and thus to each and every part regardless of who wrote it." This is the "viral nature" of the GPL and the heart of the debate that will dominate the blogosphere and the industry news media for the immediate future.

I think Sun has just let a very powerful Pandora out of the box.


  1. Anonymous12:37 PM

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  2. Anonymous8:35 PM

    I always thought sun was quite a company. This certainly changes my viewpoint. Toner