The License! The License!

Herd wisdom?Has anyone else started to grow annoyed by this obsession in the Java world with licenses? It can’t be healthy (the obsession, that is, not the annoyance).

The beta version of Java 6 (Mustang) was just released, and there’s a discussion of this momentous new release on Javalobby. Strange, though, that out of 53 posts (at the time of writing), maybe a couple of them actually pertain to the beta software itself.

All the other messages are discussing the finer points of a minutia in the license. Normally, the discussions on Javalobby are pretty healthy, but this one seems to have been hijacked by the “wrong license” crowd. A Sun employee was gracious enough to post a message saying that the minutia in question was in error and would be fixed; but still the license discussion continues.

It isn’t the first time that this has happened. Normally, these licensing threads are focused around open source releases. Entire open source projects have been founded simply because the license of a perfectly good existing project wasn’t quite to their liking.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe that it is important for a product to include a license: it lets the user know exactly where he stands when using the product. But the sense of gravity attached to the license has grown out of all proportion.

It’s reached the point where, when a product is released, the punters can’t see beyond the license to the product itself. The product just sort of fades into the background. Is the product powerful? Does it fulfill the needs of the business? Who cares? Just tell me about the license!

About the Author

Matt Stephens is a senior architect, programmer and project leader based in Central London. He co-wrote Agile Development with ICONIX Process, Extreme Programming Refactored, and Use Case Driven Object Modeling with UML - Theory and Practice.