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Apache strikes back in Oracle Java standoff

Ball's in your court, Larry, not ours

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Positions are hardening between Oracle or Apache in a battle over licenses and the future of Java.

On Monday, Oracle called on the Apache Software Foundation (ASF) to “reconsider” its call for fellow Java Community Process (JCP) members to vote against Oracle's roadmap for Java with Standard Edition (SE) 7 – outlined in September.

Oracle's vice president of standards and architecture, Don Deutsch, called a vote against Java SE 7 "a call for continued delay and stagnation of the past several years."

“Now is the time for positive action. Now is the time to move Java forward," Deutsch said here.

Deutsch claimed Oracle's living up to its obligations under the JCP's rules in providing licenses for Java Test Compatibility Kits (TCKs).

He said Oracle's Java TCKs are delivered under "fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory" terms (FRAND) - also known as just reasonable, and non-discriminatory (RAND) terms.

Call it FRAND or call it RAND it’s still a term of license considered restrictive to open source, and means Apache can’t offer Harmony as a certified version of Java SE.

ASF responded with speed and surgical precision, throwing back Deutsch’s words on stagnation and needing to work together in arguably the shortest - and least couched - of statements in the entire history of statements. The ASF board said Monday afternoon:

“Oracle statement regarding Java: "Now is the time for positive action (and) to move Java forward."

The ball is in your court. Honor the agreement.”

ASF’s link refers to an open letter sent three years ago to the JCP’s then chief controller Sun Microsystems by Apache protesting about the same restrictions on the Java TCKs.

The sticking point is this is Apache's Project Harmony. That's the project Oracle has refused to grant a TCK license. It's also the project ASF says cannot use the TCK's because of accompanying field of use restrictions that restrict where Harmony can be used.

Deutsch didn't need to mention Harmony in his statement Monday, and the purpose of dropping the FRAND bomb mid-statement seems clear: it's a response to Apache's call for a license for Harmony that tells Apache this is Oracle's stance on the matter and it's not changing.

Oracle told a closed meeting of the JCP last month that it had no intention of granting Harmony a license, a continuation of a policy begun under Sun Microsystems.

The giant has never given a reason why. Also, the stance is U-turn on Oracle's earlier position, when Sun ran the JCP and Oracle was just-another-member: that TCKs should be offered without field-of-use restrictions for use by groups like Apache.

In a 2007, JCP executive committee vote, BEA Systems and Intel proposed:

TCK license(s) for Java SE5 and later will be offered without field of use restrictions on spec implementations enabling the TCK to be used by organizations including Apache.

Deutsch was Oracle's EC representative who voted "yes" with most others.

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