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Re: [ossig] Other open source projects

Nicholas Adrian Suppiah wrote:

> Java is a good development tool that allows web and non web version of 
> an application. Java software being free or open source license, does it 
> really affects the spirit of being free or open?
> Any how, do you mean to say the licensing is not correctly done or is it 
> done in a manner that contradicts the ability to be free/open?
> -----Original Message-----
> *From:* owner-ossig@mncc.com.my [mailto:owner-ossig@mncc.com.my] *On 
> Behalf Of *Chang Sau Sheong
> Um ... i dunno wat to say :)
> There are thousands and thousands of Java software released under 
> various types of free and open source licences, are you saying that they 
> are all wrongly done so?

No. The problem is not that they were wrongly done.
But, they are against the spirit of Free Software; as long as 'free' 
does not imply 'free' as in 'free beer'.

I hope not to bore too many in here, but since there seems to be a need 
to wrap up the topic, I try my best to do so for everyone who is interested.

Firstly, if 'free' means 'free' as in 'free beer', Java is free. That 
is, it comes at no monetary cost.

However, if 'free' is supposed to come with the 4 criteria of freedom as 
defined by the Free Software Foundation, the situation looks vastly 

1. The freedom to run the program, for any purpose (freedom 0).

2. The freedom to study how the program works, and adapt it to your
    needs (freedom 1). Access to the source code is a precondition for
3. The freedom to redistribute copies so you can help your neighbor
    (freedom 2).
4. The freedom to improve the program, and release your improvements to
    the public, so that the whole community benefits (freedom 3). Access
    to the source code is a precondition for this.

You need to distinguish between the licences of the thousands and 
thousands of applications: These might be free according to these 4 
criteria; and the place on which these applications run: basically a 
Java Runtime Environment.
You will concede, that the best and most free Java code is useless 
without such an environment (classpath, JDK, whatever).

So, you can run *your* application as you wish (and probably also the 
JRE that you downloaded from SUN or Blackdown).
The other criteria, though, are not fulfilled: you cannot study and 
adapt the program (JRE), and worst: you may give *your* application to 
your neighbour, but you must not give the Runtime Environment to your 
neighbour ('Redistribution', this is called, and it is not allowed).
You have no legal access to the source code to modify and release it.

Yes, this is a vendor lock-in ! Your applications (your business model) 
depend on the existence of a Runtime Environment being available from 
SUN; and you are not allowed to redistribute yours. This is fine, 
eventually, as long as it *is* available. But SUN has the right to 
withdraw it from its servers any moment. And you are still not allowed 
to redistribute yours, the one that you downloaded, so there is no way 
for your customers to run your code, your applications. Neither the 
thousands and thousands others out there.

See, here the difference to Free Software comes in: any author may 
change his licence terms; but never retroactively. When XFree86 changed 
the licence, so be it. But the last version before the change 
necessarily comes with the old, free, licence (that is: including the 
source code and everything else), so anybody was and is permitted to 
pick up that last, free, version and move further from there. So we all 
move to Xorg now; Xorg did precisely this.

SUN gives you a different licence: no source and no right to 
redistribute the binary. If tomorrow morning they start charging $500 
per client, you are out of luck. Okay, probably they won't. But if a 
desperate Microsoft buys SUN tomorrow, The Day After could see any JRE 
disappearing from the servers.
Then you sit with your JSP, bytecode, sources, whatever; licensed 
properly with free licences, but you have nothing to run your apps on. 
Java doesn't run neither on bash nor does it compile on gcc. Stop, yes, 
there are free implementations of Java around; with less features 
though; but if your code runs on a really free Java classpath, you are 
not in trouble: the source code is available and comes with a really 
free licence; so that you are permitted to create and redistribute your 
own Runtime Environment together with your applications as you wish.

I hope this clears the confusion and the eventual misperceptions that 
Java was 'wrong' in the first place.


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