Sun Launches Revised J2SE Licenses

Sun executives said the Santa Clara, Calif.-based company has decided to dump the generic Sun Community Source License (SCSC) currently used for J2SE source code in favor of three new license types that address the specific needs of academic developers, large corporations that need to deploy a J2SE-modified platform and the larger base of ordinary corporate developers that want to make fixes to the J2SE code.

It is the first step toward giving developers easier access and modification rights to J2SE source code, but it is also clear Sun has no plans to open-source Java in the same manner it plans to open-source Solaris.

James Gosling, a distinguished engineer at Sun and the creator of Java, said the SCSC will likely "fade out" of existence as the three new licenses—developed as part of an initiative code-named Peabody—take hold in the marketplace.

The intent is to reduce the complexity of the SCSC, which was first released in 1996, and give developers more access to the source code without moving to an OSI-approved license.

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"We're trying to create a licensing atmosphere and development atmosphere as close to open-source as possible," Gosling said, while emphasizing these are not open-source licenses. "It isn't truly new," he said. "We've run Java as an open collaborative operation from the very first release of Java 10 years ago, but we struggled with [licensing the source code]."

The first license, the Java Research License (JRL), is a simplified two-page license that expands access to the J2SE source code for academic researchers. The next two licenses—the Java Distribution License (JDL) for corporate deployment of J2SE-modified source code and the Java Internal Use License (JIUL)—are for corporate developers who want to make bug fixes and deploy them internally. Both will be finished by the end of the month, Sun developers said. Sun may apply those three licensing schemes to J2EE and other Java assets if the "experiment" works, but that decision has not been made, Gosling said.

In the meantime, Sun is trying to enlist more corporate developers to improve and deploy J2SE as the company works on its J2SE 6.0 upgrade for release next year. The upgrade will offer a Web services client stack as well as performance and stability improvements. The Web services stack will allow client access to .Net-enabled Web services through a browser, Sun said. J2SE 5.0, code-named Tiger, was released in 2004.