Monday 29 June 2009

No Java SE 7 - US DOJ investigation

There are signs that the US Department of Justice is interested in the Java licensing issues I've reported on recently.

Department of Justice

As part of the Oracle takeover of Sun, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) has been investigating the deal for antitrust/monopoly issues. There is normally a fixed time limit of 30 days for these investigations. On Friday, however, the DOJ decided to extend the period.

Wall Street Journal report (cached):
The extension by the Justice Department is unusual. The department typically only extends investigations "in a small percentage of mergers," said Samuel Miller, an antitrust attorney at Sidley Austin LLP, adding that the department likely "determined that there were issues of competitive concern that required seeking additional information."
Still, the extension doesn't mean the Justice Department will move to block the deal, said Mr. Miller. Often in these cases, the acquirer agrees to certain conditions or to divest some assets, he said.

However, what was most interesting was Oracle's press release in response to this:

Oracle press release:
Oracle issued the following statement, attributable to Dan Wall, Latham & Watkins counsel to Oracle:
"We've had a very good dialogue with the Department of Justice and we were almost able to resolve everything before the Second Request deadline. All that's left is one narrow issue about the way rights to Java are licensed that is never going to get in the way of the deal. I fully expect that the investigation will end soon and not delay the closing of the deal this summer."

The second sentence is quite a teaser. It clearly indicates that the DOJ is concerned about the licensing of Java, something that I've hopefully shown is critical to every Java developer.

Of course we have no knowledge of the detail here beyond this bare statement. But if I were to speculate, I'd be thinking that the DOJ has noticed the ASF-Sun dispute and the amount of power the JCP gives the owner of Java, and are thinking about how to handle them.


The US Department of Justice is concerned about the licensing of Java. Lets hope that they get some good advice on the issues (oh, and if you're from the DOJ and reading this, feel free to contact me!!!)


  1. I would support the idea of DoJ's blocking of the merger, at least until Sun starts the Java SE 7 JSR and makes some progress in the JCP'd field of use issue.

  2. Hopefully this means there will come a "JCP organisation" of some sort. This is more relevant then ever with an owner that doesn't share Sun's reputation in the open source world.
    Creating an independent Java organisation would help their reputation immensely.

  3. I find it quite assumptive to claim that this is of concern to every Java developer. It is a big issue for developer who are contributing to Java in any way. It is less so for developers, who use Java as a programming language for their everyday work. I have read every blog entry you have made in the last couple of months, and never did I see how the JCP problems affect me as a Java developer.

  4. Stephen Colebourne30 June 2009 at 15:16

    @Fatih, As of today, Sun still holds all the cards. This means that they could make Java non-open-source again, or they could make Java no longer an open standard or they could start charging for Java. Each of these possibilities are worth all Java developers being concerned about.

  5. Interesting blog posting Stephen. If I were in Oracles position, once the acquistion has been completed, I would start charging a license fee for commercial use of new versions of java runtimes. Starting off with charging a low fee which could be then be gradually increased each year. What would you do about java if you were in charge of Oracle?

  6. @Mike J but if Oracle start to charge money to use Java then all the ecosystem will fall apart and Java will be dead, thats for sure.

    Everybody will migrate maybe to PHP, Python, Ruby, C#.Net and C++. The cobol people will continue with cobol why bother and the people that cant move out from java cause they already invested lots, have to pay they will be ofcourse pissed.

    This is a bad move of sun not to have a promised spec for Java SE. Java have been always a trap and trouble platform. Do you remember in 1998 i think Sun didnt let go Java to an open standard and I thinki it will never be. Also I think .Net is more healthy. Or much better LAMP or C++ are more healkthy and true open.

    This is sad sad sad for Java folks.

  7. @Stephen, @MikeJ: How exactly do you think they can make Java 'non-open-source again'? They might be able to choose not to do any more public development themselves, but the cat is out of the bag; we'll always have HotSpot and the libraries in their current state available under the GPL now.

    FWIW, I agree that this whole mess with the Java 1.7 JSR and 'field of use' issues needs to be sorted. The only way I see to do this properly is to open up the whole JSR process and the TCK, making it available for all. That's the only way any trust can be established; how exactly do you trust the results of a TCK that has only been run on Sun-derived JDKs (to my knowledge) and which can not be publicly verified? Such an open playing field would benefit those involved in Harmony, GNU Classpath and OpenJDK if done right.

  8. Your conclusion that "the DOJ is concerned about the licensing of Java" completely misses the actual procedural reason for the delay. It takes little more than someone asking for something to be investigated for antitrust reasons, and they have to delay the merger while that investigation is done. Someone asked, and they did. No matter how much we might dislike the license terms, there is no reasonable legal theory under which java licensing could be construed as an antitrust issue, so we can expect the investigation to be wrapped up without much effect.


Please be aware that by commenting you provide consent to associate your selected profile with your comment. Long comments or those with excessive links may be deleted by Blogger (not me!). All spam will be deleted.