compatibility and the OSD

Rod Dixon, J.D., LL.M. rdixon at
Mon Sep 27 14:12:28 UTC 2004

Sun may be choosing its acronyms poorly, but the SISSL (pronounced sizzle)
is not the same as the SCSL (probably pronounced skizzle). 

I think your point is essentially right about Sun's *Java* licensing model,
which does not rely upon an open source licensing model (e.g., SISSL);
instead, Sun uses what it calls a "community license" (e.g., the Microsoft
Java interface dispute involved the Sun Community Source License) (SCSL). I
believe Sun drafted the SCSL because of a conclusion that a genuine open
source licensing model would not meet its need. Consequently, the answer to
your question is likely that there may not be an open source solution open
to the narrow objectives of building software that the developer intends to
strictly control the compatibility of works derived from the original

Apparently, the SCSL allows Sun to prevent competitors like Microsoft from
breaking the compatibility requirements of the Java runtime. The SCSL grants
licensees only the right to make and distribute compatible deriviative
works. This works for Sun. Perhaps, with significant adaptation and
creativity, a dual-licensing model that is genuinely open source could work
for those needing to achieve objectives similar to Sun's Java runtime, but,
admittedly, managing the development and marketing effort of a "compile
once, run anywhere" component that provides open access to the source code
is probably a lot easier if you do what Sun has done.



Rod Dixon

My Blog is

-----Original Message-----
From: Kevin Bedell [mailto:kevin at] 
Sent: Saturday, September 25, 2004 11:49 PM
To: license-discuss at; lrosen at
Subject: RE: compatibility and the OSD

In the case of publishing Java under the SISSL, for example, it seems to me
this would have allowed Microsoft to publish an incompatible version of Java
long as it also published information on how its implementation deviated
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
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
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
Microsoft engaged in anticompetitive conduct directed at Sun's Java
was based largely on the allegation that Microsoft in 1997 developed and
distributed a Java virtual machine for use with Windows (the "MSJVM") that
incompatible in certain respects with Sun's Java speci-fiations"

In this case, the ability to publish derivative works resulted in MS
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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