Welcome to the Java Melodrama Show!
Today's headlines in the Java world herald the arrival of nothing less than a new era in Java ... licensing. The latest announcements from the innovative leaders in both proprietary and open source software license production, have been brought to the general blogging public today via a widely reported teleconference. Sun announced that they will announce yet another license for their source code later, maybe. In the long standing tradition of sweet license names like "scuzzle" or "cuddle", the new license will be pronounced "jewel", and written as JIUL.
So what's wrong with the current license, SCSL, cuddly nicknamed scuzzle and a jewel in Sun's crown? Hailed by Sun on its arrival back in 1998 as a blend of the best aspects of the proprietary and Open Source license models, the license failed to gain support, and has been widely debunked as as far from being open source as it gets without explicitely writing a license that violates each and every clause of the OSI definition.
After announcing that they will switch away JINI from the dreaded SCSL, Sun are now considering moving away from the SCSL for Java as well. In the words of Graham Hamilton:
Still, Hamilton believes the license is superb:
[SCSL] was intended to be the wonderfully perfect license, designed to cover all cases," Sun VP of Java Graham Hamilton said. "The problem was, everything was all wrapped up in one enormous license, and if you would hire battalions of lawyers, you would find that the license was great. The trouble is, most people don't want to hire battalions of lawyers and find SCSL is too complicated, so there hasn't been much adoption."
Hear, hear. The SCSL 'too complicated'? Most people don't want to hire an army of lawyers? How bizarre! What would James Gosling say to that?
""It's amazing how complicated most open source licenses really are," Gosling said. "And there's a growing number of them -- and they're all hard to decipher. Maybe I'm just an amused armchair quarterback, but I think it's funny, sitting where I am, having watched Sun get all the grief for supposedly complicated licenses, when you consider how truly gnarly some of these open source licenses are. They started out simply, like the BSD license, then the Stallman license ... then they all kind of swirled together. Now some of them have 'contamination' clauses in them -- the GPL is the poster child for that," Gosling said.
There you go: SCSL is just 'supposedly' complicated, with your handy 'battalions of lawyers' you should be able to decode it just fine, so what's your problem? Don't have an army of lawyers at your disposal? Sheesh. No wonder commercial Java users have trouble understanding you funny open source 'advocates'.
And don't forget, kids, it's the open source licenses that are 'truly gnarly', not the other way round!
In fact, all those wild and wooly open sources are just causing so much trouble to poor companies:
"They're causing so much chaos in companies, who tell me: "(Open source licenses) are just too vague. I can't tell you what they mean. A court of law couldn't figure this out.' It's just a mess, and they're going to be a heartache for years to come."
It's them! Look there! Over there! The open source licenses are complicated and vague and ill written! Not the SCSL! Why can't you people see what's good for you: An army of lawyers! :)
But fortunately, someone is there to the rescue from that crazy, mad open source chaos and anarchy. Never missing an opportunity to desperately try to rub a bit off the street credibility from the 'wild and wooly' open source world onto the proprietary implementation that he helped create, 'Gosling described Sun's approach as "closed open source."'
No kidding. I'd describe it as "try all possible closed source licenses randomly till you stumble into one that fits by accident, while desperately pitching it as 'open source' to whoever will still listen", but what do I know anyway, I just get to see the impressive end results of Sun's approach.
So, on to the new licenses. In a brave effort to simplify the licensing of the Java technology, Sun created not one, not two, but 3 (in words: three) 'new' licenses to govern different fields of use and goals. That's a pretty impressive and unique effort at simplifying a software license by creating more clones of the same.
One of them is of course every Java researcher's favourite JRL license, which has, despite being a huge flop ever since it was introduced in 2003, been repeatedly re-pitched every few months as 'new'. The other 'new' license is the JDL, which is also not that new any more, and is just another SCSL-clone with the most obvious problems papered over.
The only really new thing that was announced today was that Sun will announce the third 'jewel' license sometime next month. Apparently that license will allow for internal use and modification. While Hamilton calls that 'an experiment', he also has a few words of warning for those that are too eager to take that offer literally:
"There's a lot of scope for companies getting into trouble if they get too enthusiastic about making their own versions of J2SE," Hamilton said. "We don't think it should be our job to tell them what risks to take."
Play it safe, kids. Don't get too excited, and you'll be all right.
And that's all for tonight, on the Java Melodrama Show, we'll finish with your moment of Zen: