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A bit chilly in a hot place; a distributable Java JRE and JDK arrives

So it’s finally OK to mention it now; Java has made it explicitly possible (read legal) to distribute the Sun Java JRE/JDK on a GNU/Linux distrubtion. The new license is for Java SE 5 on Linux only, called the Operating System Distribution License for Java, or DLJ for short. You can read the license in text or pdf form. The FAQ for the DLJ is also available in text and pdf. Heck, go through the README for the JRE and JDK while you’re at it.

So what does that mean? Well, GNU/Linux distrubtions like Debian can now package a Java runtime environment or Java development kit in their repositories. That was previously not possible due to restrictions present in Java licensing. Users still have to accept the Java SE 5 binary code license that is totally not free and has the same restrictions Java has always had, but this at least makes packaging and supporting Java less painful for distributions.

Sun is coordinating the efforts via a java.net project, jdk-distros. This is an unprecedented level of cooperation from Sun with external parties in anything related to Java. I consider myself fortunate to have been a founding member of the project. It has been a pleasant and refreshing experience to meet a few optimistic and forward-thinking people from Sun who have a keen interest in Free Software; a big thanks to Simon Phipps and Tom Marble. I was encouraged that they allowed our contributions to be covered under the MIT license. If you would have told me that a month ago I would have laughed at you.

The Debian announcment should be posted on the debian-devel-announce list today. I am sure this will draw both praise and ire from the Debian community. That’s cool, though; the rich diversity is part of what makes it such a vibrant organism.

5 thoughts on “A bit chilly in a hot place; a distributable Java JRE and JDK arrives”

  1. It’s not DFSG-free.

    First, the license has no definition of what Linux really is. That license sez “‘Operating System’ means any version of the Linux or OpenSolaris operating systems”, but as we’re all aware by now, Linux is a kernel, not an operating system.

    And second, as a generalization, Sun doesn’t understand what Open Source means. “Open Source Means No Control” (paraphrasing jwz). This means that if I think Sun has made a stupid mistake, I don’t have to ask their permission before fixing it. Regardless of whether it’s in Sun’s strategic interest for nobody to be able to fix that mistake.

    That doesn’t mean my fix is right, but it does mean that Sun can’t extinguish anyone’s efforts, right or wrong, on the basis of “ownership”. Other people are smart too.

    I welcome the JDK to contrib. But contrib is not part of Debian.

  2. Oh, silly me. I meant to say “I welcome the JDK to non-free”. It’s been a while; my apologies.

    So what are hurd-i386 and kfreebsd-gnu supposed to do? Aren’t we the universal operating system?

    It’s nice that Sun’s making it easier for so-called “Linux” operating systems to distribute closed-source binaries of the JDK; don’t get me wrong. But I’m still waiting for Sun to close on their promises to promote an *open* system.

    I guess I can see Sun’s point of view. After all, there are hundreds of distinct forks of perl, and the lack of WORA there has destroyed perl as a critical component of Internet infrastructure.

  3. Jay,

    Hi! Thanks for commenting. You are correct; the new packages from Sun are not free as defined by the DFSG. In fact, they are not free as defined by most anyone. That’s why noone who knows what they are talking about should have posted anything to that nature, though I have already seen some half-informed and misleading blog posts as early as last night.

    Also, note that the JRE and JDK are in non-free, not contrib. Those are two distinct sections as defined by Debian Policy. As you point out, they are both not part of Debian proper, which is the section referred to as main.

  4. Barry: A pleasure working with you too!

    Jay: Yep, sorry it’s not Free yet – working on that ;-) With respect to other systems such as *BSD, the problem is that it’s not just a matter of distribution of existing binary bits, so I couldn’t do the “easy” fix to the distribution license to provide a palliative for the interim. Rest assured that the *BSDs are next on my list to address – I welcome contacts to help discuss the issue regardless of the kernel in use, please send me private mail to webmink-at-sun-dot-com.

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