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Re: Sun Java available from non-free

On Sun, Jun 04, 2006 at 03:59:03PM +0200, Dalibor Topic wrote:
> On Sun, 2006-06-04 at 09:57 +1000, Anthony Towns wrote:
> > I would furthermore strongly encourage people to work *with* Sun towards
> > improving the current license
> There have been numerous issues with the current text pointed out here
> already, I guess people are currently just waiting for the fixes from
> Sun's legal.

Mmm. The impression I got was that people were waiting for the packages
to be removed from Debian and no one was really all that interested in
responses from Sun, cf:


And people are welcome to hold that opinion and speak about it all they
like, but the way Debian makes the actual call on whether a license
is suitable for distribution in non-free isn't based on who shouts the
loudest on a mailing list, it's on the views of the archive maintainers.

But that isn't the only issue at stake here, and it's not even the most
important one; the other is communicating with Sun and other upstream
authors the values that Debian thinks are important, and working with
them to find common ground so that the licenses they choose reflect some
of the goals and insights we've developed.

Sun have made it very clear that they're trying to work with us on this
for something that benefits our users, so that just leaves it to us
to decide what's more important: taking a principled stand that we'll
read every license literally and pedantically; or take advantage of
other means by which we can be confident in distributing the software,
and in so doing build a relationship with Sun that can be used later,
and improve the experience of using Debian for people who need Sun Java?

Certainly there are benefits to having a license that can be read
literally and pedantically without causing problems -- and they're not
small or neglible benefits either, as has been shown by pine, Qt, or ncftp
in the past. But when standing up for that principle doesn't actually
protect our users, and taking a flexible approach to it helps them, well,
we have a social contract to make sure we do bend at this sort of time.

> Some kind of more structured process would be nice, the DPL
> could play a useful role there.

The process for improving a license is pretty easy: someone suggests
improvements to the author, they consider them and ask around for advice,
there's some more discussion to make sure the suggestion is a good idea,
and eventually a new license is issued. In this case, Sun have already
gone to the effort of looking through Debian's procedures and started
participating on the -legal list; -legal meanwhile have been obstructive
in trying to tell Sun what their license means, even when that contradicts
what Sun understands their license to mean as documented in their FAQ,
and verified by their lawyers.

> > and developing sufficient confidence in
> > the Debian and free software community to release Java under an entirely
> > free license.
> In my opinion, that's conflating two separate issues. 
> Afaict, noone working on the DLJ (from Sun's or Debian's side) knew
> anything about Sun's recently voiced intention to 'release Java under an
> entirely free license'.

I think interpreting that as an "intention" would be overstating it. Open
sourcing Java has been on the cards for quite a while, and equally there
have been objections to doing so for quite a while. One of the simplest
objections is that the free software community just aren't an interesting
market for Java people -- we don't want Java, so why spend effort giving
it to us? We have an opportunity, if we choose to take advantage of it,
get rid of that objection right now -- by putting in the effort to get
Java packaged up in non-free and made useful for our users, both we and
Sun can demonstrate that Java on Linux is actually a good idea. Or we
could reinforce that objection, by making sure that no step Sun might
take will achieve anything, and saying things like "We've got Perl and
Python and Ruby, why would we want Java?"

Personally, I'm not a Java programmer anymore than I'm a C++ or a
Fortran programmer. But I know Java's a language, and I know Sun have
written some runtime software for it, so I think that should first of
all be cleanly packaged for Debian, and second of all be free software,
and I just don't need a third thought on the issue.

> Sun already *is* part of the free software community, and has been for
> years. 

Sun is a big company; some parts are comfortable working with free
software, others aren't. Historically, the Java section hasn't been -- and
that's continues to be reflected in how well Java works on Linux. That's
something we should change.

> Debian ships lots of free software with Sun's copyright on it. I
> would be very surprised if a multi-billion dollar corporation with 35k+
> employees, largely working on free software, needed particular
> handholding from someone else to figure out what free software is, given
> how many bright people work over there on free software already. ;)

Sometimes it's useful to hear ideas coming from outside the fold, as
well as from insiders.


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