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Apache Feuds with Sun Over Java Test Kit License

Open Letter from Geir Magnusson Outlines Complaint

On April 10, 2007, Geir Magnusson (pictured) of the Apache Software Foundation sent the following letter to Sun Microsystems regarding the organization's perceived inability to acquire an acceptable license for the Java SE 5 technology compatibility kit, a test kit needed by the Apache Harmony project to demonstrate compatibility with the Java SE 5 specification, as required by the Sun specification license for Java SE 5.

Some outtakes from the letter:

"My name is Geir Magnusson Jr, and I'm the officer of the Apache Software Foundation (ASF), a 501(c)3 public charity, charged with matters relating to our participation in the Java Community Process (JCP). I am also the VP of the Apache Harmony project. In this matter I represent the ASF.

"Since August 2006, the ASF has been attempting to secure an acceptable license from Sun for the test kit for Java SE. This test kit, called the "Java Compatibility Kit" or "JCK", is needed by the Apache Harmony project to demonstrate its compatibility with the Java SE specification, as required by Sun's specification license. The JCK license Sun is offering imposes IP rights restrictions through limits on the "field of use" available to users of our software.

"These restrictions are totally unacceptable to us.

"Sun's JCK license protects portions of Sun's commercial Java business at the expense of ASF's open software. It prevents our users from using Apache software in certain fields of use. Such implicit or explicit threats of IP-based aggression give one actor overwhelming commercial advantages over the other participants in the ecosystem.

"Your restrictions violate the basic protections of the JCP, which ensure both that a) specification leads and expert groups produce open specifications, and b) anyone can implement and distribute compatible implementations of those specifications without fear of obligation to the specification lead or members of the expert group for any necessary IP needed to implement that specification.

"Besides holding back the Harmony project - a community-led open source project of the ASF since May of 2005 - this failure to comply with your contractual obligations poses serious risk to the credibility of the JCP as an open standards organization, and the reputation of Java itself as an open technology. We believe that
this also threatens the general cooperative nature of the commercial Java ecosystem, puts at risk the long-standing positive relationship between Sun and the ASF, and probably between Sun and the broader open source community - all of which is key to the continued growth of Java."

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