On the role of the SCA

Dr Andrew John Hughes gnu_andrew at member.fsf.org
Mon May 9 12:21:24 UTC 2011

On 9 May 2011 10:23, Andrew Haley <aph at redhat.com> wrote:
> Taking this off the governing board thread:
> On 28/04/11 11:30, Mark Wielaard wrote:
>> - Get rid of the SCA. Commit to using the GPL for everything.
>>   People should be able to be members of the community without
>>   having to assign all their rights on non-reciprocal terms to
>>   Oracle.
> Personally, I think this would be a disaster for free Java.  Oracle
> would continue their proprietary projects, making improvements to the
> JDK, but would have to firewall contributions from the wider community
> to make sure that they didn't get in to the proprietary JDK tree.  So,
> the OpenJDK and JDK trees would have to be isolated from each other.
> Any contributions from the community that were needed in the
> proprietary tree would have to be rewritten.  The end result would
> surely be that OpenJDK would be orphaned, and would wither without
> Oracle's contributions.  It might make free software developers feel
> better, but it would push users back to using proprietary Java.
> Andrew.

But the other side of the coin is that the OCA is a clear barrier to
contributions from outside Oracle, whether it's a case that someone
doesn't want to hand over copyright to Oracle or they simply don't
have the rights to hand over.  There's plenty of stuff in IcedTea that
will stay there for the foreseeable future because we don't have the
rights to give them to Oracle.  Nor is there really any motivation to
do so.

As I mentioned in the previous thread, much of this could be sorted
out if Oracle simply cleaned up their binaries so that there was a
clear GPL component with proprietary blobs to plug in.  That's both
technically and legally possible AFAICS, but it does require a little
work initially.  The benefit far outweighs this initial outlay though,
as you'd be able to get rid of the OCA and actually start to make
OpenJDK into a proper FOSS project.  It goes a bit further than making
"free software developers feel better" and actually removes a huge
barrier for entry into the project.

I agree that with the present setup, Oracle would end up not
contributing to OpenJDK.  The fact that it would wither without them
just shows how unhealthy this project is in the first place.
Andrew :-)

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