compatibility and the OSD

Kevin Bedell kevin at
Sun Sep 26 03:49:06 UTC 2004

Quoting Lawrence Rosen <lrosen at>:

> What's wrong with the Sun Industry Standards Source License (SISSL) for this
> purpose? It is already approved by OSI as an open source license.
> I note that JAVA is not made available by Sun under the SISSL.

>From my reading of the SISSL (and of course, IANAL), it looks as if it approves
publishing non-compatible derivative works as long as (from sec 3.1):

"You agree to publish either (i) any deviation from the Standards protocol
resulting from implementation of Your Modifications and a reference
implementation of Your Modifications or (ii) Your Modifications in Source Code
form, and to make any such deviation and reference implementation or
Modifications available to all third parties under the same terms as this
license on a royalty free basis within thirty (30) days of Your first customer
shipment of Your Modifications."

In the case of publishing Java under the SISSL, for example, it seems to me that
this would have allowed Microsoft to publish an incompatible version of Java as
long as it also published information on how its implementation deviated along
with a reverence implementation (which it did in the form of the MSJVM).

As you probably recall, a few years ago Microsoft (in its MSJVM) published an
incompatible version of Java that resulted in a major lawsuit between it and
Sun. The SISSL seems as if it would have allowed Microsoft that right (at no
cost) as long as it also published details on how their implementation differed
along with reference implementation.

I've excerpted this line from a Microsoft Appeals Brief:

"As presented at last week’s preliminary injunction hearing, Sun’s claim that
Microsoft engaged in anticompetitive conduct directed at Sun’s Java technology
was based largely on the allegation that Microsoft in 1997 developed and
distributed a Java virtual machine for use with Windows (the "MSJVM") that was
incompatible in certain respects with Sun’s Java speci­fiations"

In this case, the ability to publish derivative works resulted in MS including
an incompatible version of Java in every version of Microsoft Windows.

Am I right in my reasoning here? If so, how could Sun have designed a license to
prevent this?


Kevin Bedell
Black Duck Software

"Imagination is more important than knowledge."
 - Albert Einstein

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