Why is Oracle making headlines?
According to The Register and other news sources, Oracle has begun chasing up clients for payable elements of its Java software. The database giant is going after a host of companies that are using elements of the open source software that aren’t actually free – apparently unbeknownst to many of these users. Huge sums are at stake – with some clients reportedly accruing fees that amount to tens of thousands of dollars.
Why is Oracle chasing its partners for payment?
In 2010, Oracle bought Java – the programming language and development platform for apps – with Sun Microsystems. The point of monetary contention today is a popular version of Java called Java Standard Edition (Java SE) – one which anyone can download from the Oracle website. It’s only now that Oracle’s License Management Services (LMS) division is chasing people for payment – apparently searching out companies who have been using, but not paying for, the parts of that software that Oracle charges for. It’s always been free to use the programming language to write an app, but if you want to make use of the tools that allow you to distribute the app (along with a range of additional advanced options), Oracle will charge you. Fees for Java SE range from $40 per user to upwards of $15,000 per processor, according to reports.
Should I be worried?
It’s worth noting that Oracle has denied claims of a crackdown on its clients, telling Business Insider: “Oracle’s commitment to Java and its community remains stronger than ever, as shared recently at JavaOne. Oracle is not ramping Java SE compliance activity or hiring of compliance staff. The licensing model and policies for Java SE have remained unchanged since before the acquisition of Sun Microsystems. It is incorrect to imply that it’s easy for users to accidentally use Java SE Advanced features.” Yet while Oracle claims not to have radically altered its auditing process, there is much to indicate that a greater number of Java users have been reviewed of late than in previous years – so it’s worth doing a little self audit.
What can I/my company do to avoid being hit with charges?
According to sources quoted in The Register, people should be careful when they download Java SE – and those who have already done so should consider reviewing their use. A basic misunderstanding appears to be at the root of the issue: Java SE is free for what Oracle defines as “general purpose computing” – devices that in the words of its license cover desktops, notebooks, smartphones and tablets. The term “general purpose” computing is too vague, however, allowing Oracle to claim customers’ applications are specialised and consequently slap them with huge fees. In addition, when you download Java, you automatically get everything – there’s no way to separate the paid-for Java SE component products from the free Java SE umbrella. So it’s worth checking which of the specific components you are actually using and how they are being used – and get rid of any that you aren’t.