Posts Tagged ‘linux’

Free-software hippies frothing at Oracle

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Oracle recently sued Google over alleged infringement of Java-related software patents as implemented in the Java-ish userland operating environment of Google’s Android OS.  I haven’t read a good breakdown of the actual alleged violations, so I can’t speak to their merit.  However, it’s not as though Oracle is some patent troll — they legitimately own the intellectual property associated with Java patents by virtue of their acquisition of Sun Microsystems, and they continue to develop Java technology.  Shortly after this announcement, Oracle also announced that they will no longer develop Solaris (the commercial software) through Open Solaris (the open-source development project that has, heretofore, “run ahead” of Solaris).  Instead, Solaris will be developed in-house by Oracle and its source will be released after, not before, a commercial release.

Since then, there’s been a steady stream of free-software enthusiast outrage.  Over at zdnet, there has been (and I’m not joking) nearly one article or blog post per day, all decrying the evil that is Oracle.  The crux of their complaining stems from their underlying assumption that software patents should not exist, and that a company cannot be “a friend of open source” and also defend its intellectual property via software patents.  This is utterly ridiculous.  Oracle’s lawsuit may be meritless (I don’t have the expertise on the exact allegations to say one way or the other), but they’re not evil for killing off a money-losing endeavor (Open Solaris — which was already almost exclusively developed by Sun/Oracle engineers or those working for them through partnership agreements) or claiming a stake in the multibillion dollar mobile OS market that is Android, and which may in fact be based on Oracle-patented technology.  Being “open source” doesn’t necessarily mean “here, take everything for free, I disavow any claim to this.”  That’s what the GPL hippies want “open source” to mean, but that’s not what it meant long before the GPL ever came around.  And, I’ve got no problem with people wanting to develop “Free” (as the GPL hippies define it) software – cool beans for them.  But, they’re crazy to demand that businesses license their software and their intellectual property according to their nutjob demands.  (The GPL hippies aren’t exactly completely altruistic, either.  Though they are bemoaning what they perceive as Oracle “changing the deal” with Java by coming back now and asserting intellectual property rights on something they believed was “Free”, they do the exact same thing if a company improperly appropriates GPL code in to a closed-source product:  they “come back later” and demand that the terms of their intellectual property agreement — the GPL — be enforced).  This latest bout of batshit insane demands from the corners of Free Software enthusiasts only reinforces my underlying belief that Free Software is mostly about one thing for its proponents:  gimme gimme gimme.