OpenJDK Governing Board Minutes: 20011/4/21

Mark Wielaard mark at
Sun May 8 20:35:58 UTC 2011

Hi Mike,

> To further set (perhaps lower would be more accurate) expectations
> on this front, it is my understanding that any revisions to the
> OCA will happen _after_ the revised Bylaws come out.

That is surprising. The Bylaws are based on the OCA, they use it
to define OpenJDK contributors and members. They define the inbound
licensing terms for the project as a whole. Since those are pretty
essential definitions in the bylaws it would make sense to me to deal
with them together at the same time.

> Sun, and now Oracle, have business motivations and existing
> contractual obligations that will always require them to aggregate
> clear title to the intellectual property in OpenJDK. So anyone
> harbouring hopes that this would change needs to come to terms
> with this reality.

The problem is not (business) motivations and obligations themselves.
All contributors have them. And obviously those are different for
all of them. There is nobody in the community who is helped by
unclear titles to any of the "intellectual property" (I assume you
mean specifically copyrights, distribution terms, patents and
trademarks) we all work on based on OpenJDK.

To be honest, your response is somewhat offensive. How would you
feel if some appointed, non-contributor, to the Eclipse board would
state that anybody harboring hopes that there can be a honest
discussion on participation agreements, contributor terms,
inbound/outbound licensing, right grants among members that are
different from "all rights of all members will get assigned to one
specific commercial company for unstated business motivations",
should get to terms with reality?

I think this is a good example of why the current so called governance
board has a bad makeup. It "governs" based on the motivations of a
very select group of contributors. Some of which don't even contribute
themselves. Others are not even bound to the inbound/outbound license
agreements all other project members uses. These people might be very
good at defending the motivations and contractual obligations their
companies have. But there is a very big chance that they completely miss
the motivations and pain of other members.

As you can expect of the GNU Classpath maintainer, I am actually pretty
happy about the current legal setup where everybody gets the code under
the GPL plus Classpath exception, just like with GNU Classpath.
This makes sure that all contributors, and all end users, get a clear
and reciprocal license to all copyrights and patents on the code, which
provides them all the necessary freedoms to use, share, study and modify
the software any way they like. I think we cannot thank Sun, now Oracle
enough for that.

But it concerns me that this is not something guaranteed for the project
as a whole in either the participation agreement (OCA) nor these new
proposed bylaws.

Not only the uncertainty about the outbound licensing is an issue that
I think undermines the community aspects of the project. The current
inbound licensing (only allowed by assigning all rights unconditionally
to Oracle, without reciprocity) is already currently harming the

Some of the following issues are not directly the result of the current
legal setup of the participant agreement and board, but they hurt so
much more because of the unfairness of the current project setup. And
because IMHO neither the OCA, nor these proposed Bylaws protect the
motivations of anybody but Oracle (and their proprietary licensees).

The project could have had a full deployment implementation, applet
viewer, webstarts, etc. integrated to finish the last few non-free JDK
requirements. These now live in a separate project (icedtea-web) only
because the OCA doesn't allow inbound code unless all the rights are
assigned unconditionally to Oracle (not possible in this case, even if
the authors wanted, because it is based on some existing free software
projects). The same was true for earlier efforts of the IcedTea team,
which were just rewritten by Sun employees because the other efforts
were based on existing free software.

The project could have actual free (binary) releases/daily builds, since
thanks to IcedTea we have autobuilders and testers. But when the results
were offered to be hosted on they were rejected
because of more legal issues.

Worse, the only "releases" OpenJDK makes (like the developer previews)
are completely unnecessarily under proprietary terms which don't even
allow contributors to the OpenJDK code to inspect them, nor do they
allow users to even report issues to the OpenJDK project [*].

There is now support/ports for embedded and alternative architectures
like arm, powerpc, etc. through the contributed zero and shark code. But
you still need to use the IcedTea code base, because the in-tree OpenJDK
versions keep breaking because contributions are only run through some
proprietary testsuite that don't test the alternative testsuites.
IcedTea does provide at least some autobuilders for ARM.

Again, worse, it seems Oracle is only interested in some proprietary,
out of tree OpenJDK port which also happens to support ARM and PowerPC.
The IcedTea-MIPS port never even got access to the TCK-testsuite.

IcedTea contributors keep trying to push their fixes to OpenJDK in the
hope to have one real common core free JDK project. But then as recently
seen on core-libs, their patches are blocked because the Oracle JDK is
in freeze.

And then there is the constant speculation about the "real" motivations
of Oracle to harvest all these rights of all contributors. Is it because
they only really care about their proprietary releases? Will my free
software project or company be the target of a new lawsuit Oracle
launches because through the OCA they collect all copyrights and patent
claims necessary for that?

If you care about a healthy community around OpenJDK then as a board you
should clarify what Oracle's motivations really are, whether the current
OCA is the only way to achieve their goals (wouldn't simply registering
who holds which rights to what code be enough, then they can re-purpose
code they have all rights to, and simply exclude that over which they
don't have full rights and/or just accept the same GPL outbound
licensing all other contributors enjoy) and how to setup things so that
the motivations of other participants are not harmed.



[*] More background here:

More information about the discuss mailing list