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Oracle's Sword of Damocles forces open source fork rename

Hudson out, Jenkins in

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With Larry Ellison dangling the sword of Damocles over their heads, the leaders of the Hudson community have decided to rename the popular open-source software-build project and move it to a new code repository on GitHub. If their proposal is accepted by the rest of the community, Hudson will be rechristened Jenkins.

Late last year, Oracle told the Hudson community they were welcome to move the continuous integration project to non-Oracle servers, but it claimed to control the rights to the Hudson name. In a Tuesday blog post, community leader Andrew Bayer said that Oracle has not provided assurances that the name will be safe.

"The problem is that this trademark ownership gives Oracle the ability to revoke the Hudson project's right to call itself Hudson at any time, and while Oracle has made an attempt to offer some guarantees (most notably, that binary releases of Hudson, once they've been released with the name Hudson attached, will always retain the right to the name), they are not offering any binding guarantee that the Hudson project will be able to retain its use of the name in perpetuity," writes Bayer, who also speaks for Hudson founder Kohsuke Kawaguchi.

"To continue using the name Hudson means ceding some of the project's independence to Oracle. If the project and its governance board opted to go in a direction Oracle disapproved of, Oracle would be able to take away the naming rights. Or, in a less dramatic scenario, Oracle could insist on certain changes to the code, infrastructure decisions, process, etc, regardless of opposition from the Hudson development community, in order to retain the rights to the name."

Therefore, Bayer says, the community has no choice but to rechristen. "In short, we'd be living under a sword of Damocles, regardless of the goodwill of the individuals we've been negotiating with at Oracle - Hudson as a project would be beholden to Oracle's whims for its continued use of its own name, and we believe that's not viable," he continues.

"As I see it, the only viable option facing the project now is to rename it, in order to free it from the burden of Oracle's ownership of its name. This is not a first choice, not by a long shot, but I don't see any other choice available to us that would preserve the integrity of the project going forward."

The community chose Jenkins because it "evokes the same sort of English butler feel as Hudson."

Designed to improve software quality control, Hudson was originally designed by Sun Microsystems. In December, Oracle claimed that it acquired the Hudson trademark with its purchase of Sun. "Because it is open source, we can't stop anybody from forking it [Hudson]. We do however own the trademark to the name, so you cannot use the name outside of the core community. We acquired that as part of Sun," the company said on a Hudson mailing list.

But according to Bayer, Oracle has merely applied for the trademark – in the US and in Europe. Last month, Oracle tools and middleware chief architect and senior vice president Ted Farrell told The Reg: "I believe Oracle trademarked several assets acquired as part of the Sun acquisition, including Hudson. There is a US process and an EU process and I don't have the details of where we are within those processes."

In any event, the community has resolved to rename. Bayer says that the community has already registered domains and Twitter handles involving the Jenkins name, and they have tried to verify that there are no conflicts with existing trademarks. Kohsuke Kawaguchi, who was the primary Hudson developer at Sun, is working to register a new trademark under his own name, but the plan is to eventually move the trademark to the Software Freedom Conservancy.

The community has invited Oracle to stay with the project, but it will move the code repository and mailing lists off of the company's servers. "Out of respect for Oracle's trademark claim on Hudson, we will move our infrastructure off of Oracle-owned and hosted servers, and we will rename existing independent components of the infrastructure to no longer use 'Hudson'".

Oracle is expected to release a proposal of its own later this week. And Bayer and other community leaders will not move on their proposal until it is formally approved by the community as a whole.

Bayer argues that the project is not being forked. "There may be some confusion as to whether we're proposing to fork Hudson, or rename the existing project," he says. "I firmly believe we are proposing the latter - for me, the project's key component is Kohsuke himself. If the community decides to support renaming the project to Jenkins, and Oracle chooses to continue development themselves under the name Hudson, they are, obviously, entirely welcome to do so. But with Kohsuke working on Jenkins, that's the true home and the future of the project for me, regardless of the name." ®

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