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Re: Sun Java available from non-free

On Fri, May 19, 2006 at 01:12:19PM +0200, Martin Zobel-Helas wrote:
> On Friday, 19 May 2006, you wrote:
> > > > As a final note, did anyone from Debian who usually examines licences
> > > > actually examine this one? 
> > > Yes.
> > I take it you were too busy to elaborate on this when you wrote this
> > email. So you will probably give us the name of this person later on,
> > right? Or even better this person may stand up now and speak
> > for himself and share his reasoning.
> i hope it is just due to the lag of bandwidth, so AJ is just trying to
> use as little bandwidth as possible, to leave the rest for us, watching
> the videostream from outside. ;)

Lack of temporal bandwidth is an issue too, as you can probably guess by
the length of time it's taken to actually reply to this. I was actually
surprised to see that I'd posted that mail; I'd thought I'd left it in
my queue to think about for a bit before sending... Oh well.

Anyway, the background is that James Troup, Jeroen van Wolffelaar and
myself examined the license before accepting it into non-free (which is
three times the usual examination, and was done given the inability to
examine the license in public), and both James and Jeroen had extensive
contact with Sun to ensure that the tricky clauses were actually okay.

There are three factors that are particularly relevant: the first is
Sun's intentions and ability and interest to work with us as a proxy
for the broader free software community -- this is an important issue
because it ensures that we can resolve any problems with the license,
and reduces the concern that Sun will try to screw us over, as it would
become a PR problem rather than just a quiet argument on the lists; the
second is that both the legal principle of estoppel and the general common
sense principle of not going back on your word if you want people to work
with you prevents Sun from realistically saying "the FAQ is completely
wrong and should be ignored"; and the third aspect, which is probably
most important, is that should any of these problems actually happen,
we can fairly simply just drop Sun Java from non-free if we can't come
to a better conclusion.

That's not to say the license issues aren't problems, they are, and I
hope debian-legal will be able to work with Sun both on helping them
improve their non-free license, and in the future, helping them work
through their concerns in applying a free license to Java. Obviously the
Sun and Java guys have different priorities to -legal, but that doesn't
mean it's not worth working together to solve what problems can be.

In particular, saying "sure, you spent all that time writing a FAQ, but
we're going to pretend you didn't" isn't a good way to start a productive
relationship -- "some of these issues from the FAQ remain ambiguous in
the license, perhaps you would consider clarifying it in the license in
a future version by saying _______" or "this issue isn't clarified in
either the FAQ or the license, and is important because _____".

Unfortunately the possibility of Sun Java being relicensed suitably for
non-free wasn't mentioned to us in enough time to build up a relationship
with -legal folks that wouldn't primarily involve telling the Sun guys
how this wasn't going to work. Fortunately James and Jeroen have been
able to build a reasonably effective relationship with the Sun folks
involved in the time provided; hopefully now that it's public, -legal
in general will have the time and opportunity to do likewise, in a more
thorough and transparent way.

Tom Marble has begun responding to concerns raised on -legal [0] and
I would strongly encourage folks to work with him and other Sun folks
in a positive and constructive manner so that we can further encourage
Sun's current forays into the free software world, hopefully resulting
in them immersing themselves completely, eventually.


[0] Message-id: <446E6C3E.5030600@sun.com>

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