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Java Oracle The Courts

Ellison Doesn't Know If Java Is Free 393

Posted by Soulskill
from the it-is-except-where-it-isn't dept.
New submitter Emacs.Cmode sends this excerpt from CNet: "Among the highlights emanating from U.S. District Court in San Francisco courtroom 8 today was Oracle CEO Larry Ellison's response to a question regarding the status of the Java programming language, which his company acquired when it bought Sun Microsystems in 2010. Asked by Google's lead attorney, Robert Van Nest, if the Java language is free, Ellison was slow to respond. Judge William Alsup pushed Ellison to answer with a yes or no. As ZDNet reporter Rachel King observed in the courtroom, Ellison resisted and huffed, 'I don't know.'" Groklaw has a good write-up about what happened during day one of the trial and a briefer summary of what happened on day two.
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Ellison Doesn't Know If Java Is Free

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  • Good answer (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Fjandr (66656) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @12:12AM (#39719475) Homepage Journal

    That's probably the best answer he could have given under the circumstances, though I can understand why he was loathe to give it.

  • by Kenja (541830) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @12:14AM (#39719485)
    With all the legal complications surrounding it, I would be hard pressed to say with certainty one way or the other. As a concept, I would sy its free. As an actual product, I would have to review everything in it before I could say that it is.
  • by Black Parrot (19622) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @12:29AM (#39719573)

    Actually, Ellison's annual salary is 1$, no joke. He is paid in stock to avoid income taxes.

    Does he have to pay tax when he cashes in the stock?

    If so, how does he come out ahead?

    (And if no, why isn't he covered with tar and feathers.)

  • Re:Free? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @12:53AM (#39719681)

    What a bunch of bullcrap. Oracle is not a person. The person who started the lawsuit should testify. That would be ... Larry Ellison. Yes, that is why he is testifying. If he doesn't know, he should not have sued.

  • Re:Free? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Dahamma (304068) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @01:14AM (#39719761)

    As the chief executive officer, chairman of the board, and largest voting shareholder he most definitely filed the lawsuit. No one at Oracle would wipe their ass unless he approved.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @01:15AM (#39719763)

    Have you ever in your life posted a comment worth reading?

  • by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @01:18AM (#39719781) Journal

    Court cases are not a giant free for all. Read up on deposition. Google asked this question before the live trial AND it was answered by Elison as bing correct, java is free. He knew the question was coming because Google lawyers told him well inn advance that it would and he submited his answer in writing. Now in court he suddenky doesnt know? How gullible are you?

    Elison is a dinosaur who just hates google for not using oracle databases. Google was smart enough to stay away fro, that steaming pile of crap. If only they had been smart enough to stay away from Java. Ms and Apple were.

  • Re:Free? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by bill_mcgonigle (4333) * on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @01:19AM (#39719789) Homepage Journal

    Google: Anyone can use the JPL without paying royalties, yes?

    Ellison: Not sure.

    The correct answer is, "of course they can, it was released under the GPLv2 [slashdot.org] which says, in part:

    7. ... If you cannot
    distribute so as to satisfy simultaneously your obligations under this
    License and any other pertinent obligations, then as a consequence you
    may not distribute the Program at all. For example, if a patent
    license would not permit royalty-free redistribution of the Program by
    all those who receive copies directly or indirectly through you, then
    the only way you could satisfy both it and this License would be to
    refrain entirely from distribution of the Program.

    But ... and I think this is the rub of the case - even though anybody can use Java freely through the GPL, it's not known that Google went that route, probably to avoid having to make Android redistributable (even though it often is anyway). At least I haven't seen Google claim that Davlik etc. are derivavtive works of the GPLv2 release of Java.

    So, the ability to keep Android closed when they want to must be worth more to Google than whatever they might eventually have to pay to Oracle.

  • Re:Free? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by sjames (1099) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @01:23AM (#39719797) Homepage

    Isn't he supposed to know? Isn't that supposedly the reason CEOs get paid the big bucks?

    Perhaps more to the point, if he is the CEO of Oracle, and even knowing he will be going to court to testify on an issue of Java licensing but he doesn't know what is licensed, isn't that a really strong argument that a 2nd party's infringement (if any) was unintentional? Is Google (or anyone else) really supposed to understand the Java licensing better than the CEO of Oracle?

    In fact, I suspect he didn't want to say it was free because that sounded a bit damning for Oracle's claims, but didn't want to say it's non-free since he couldn't back tyhat up and it would be damning for Oracle's efforts to get Java everywhere and in everything, so he went with a variant on the Steve Martin defense.

  • Re:Free? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @01:30AM (#39719837)

    Isn't that why CEOs get such massively bloated compensation? Because they are supposed to be in charge of everything? I could've said "I don't know" too and I'll be happy to say it for only 10% of what Larry gets.

    I bet if one of his underlings said that to him he'd drive his boot up his ass and show him the door.

  • by slamb (119285) * on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @01:42AM (#39719891) Homepage

    Taxed at an extraordinarily low rate...

    Yes and no.

    My understanding is that if an employer gives you stock outright as part of your compensation, you must pay federal earned income tax on the fair-market value of the stock as of when they gave it to you, which would be 35% for the last dollar earned by someone in the top tax bracket. You also pay federal capital gains tax on any increase in price since then, up to 35% if you held the stock less than a year, likely 15% if you held it more than a year. (It could be 0% if more than a year and your income is less than a certain amount, but if so you probably don't have any stock anyway.)

    You might say the 15% is an extraordinary low rate, but then again, if you were just paid a like amount of cash, you could have used it to buy the stock at its fair-market value and achieved the same overall tax rate anyway. The real trick is to (1) have enough spare money that you don't need this income for at least a year, possibly a lot longer depending on market conditions, and to (2) know what stocks will gain so dramatically that your initial investment seems insignificant. If you can do those things on most of your income, the low tax rate is just the icing on the extraordinarily large cake you can easily afford to have and eat, too...

    Of course there are some loopholes [motherjones.com], but I think they're only practical for "job-creators" like Mitt Romney, not regular folk like you and me. (And for the record, some of my income was considered long-term capital gains, but apparently not nearly as much as Romney's; my tax rate was much higher.)

  • Re:Free? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Mr. Underbridge (666784) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @01:43AM (#39719899)
    Yeah, I'm sure Ellison's company didn't do any due diligence at all regarding Java rights and ownership before buying Sun. Suuuuuure.
  • Re:WWSD? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by phantomfive (622387) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @02:01AM (#39719989) Journal

    What has Stallman done in the past five years that's of any significance?

    More than you, Mr AC.

  • Re:Good answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mwvdlee (775178) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @02:30AM (#39720129) Homepage

    Given the ambiguity of the word "free", a simple yes/no answer would most likely be incorrect for everything except public domain.

  • Re:Good answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by jd (1658) <imipak@@@yahoo...com> on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @03:01AM (#39720277) Homepage Journal

    Makes it hard for Oracle to make a compelling case that it is non-free if the man ultimately in charge of deciding doesn't know. They may well still make a compelling case, but even if they do, this admission will impact what they can claim in damages. (Google can legitimately claim that if Oracle doesn't know what it owns, Google cannot be wholly responsible for not knowing either.)

  • Re:Good answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by musmax (1029830) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @03:15AM (#39720335)
    It pains me to say it, but he's no idiot...
  • Re:Free? (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Serpents (1831432) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @03:18AM (#39720343)
    You don't seem to understand that companies don make decisions by themselves. There are people running them, they call the shots and they should be held responsible for results of their own actions. The entire "corporate personhood" idea is just a way for them to wriggle out of that responsibility.
  • by Rennt (582550) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @03:24AM (#39720367)
    Indeed, although one would have thought Oracle reviewed this very question before getting to court.
  • by Kotoku (1531373) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @04:19AM (#39720593) Journal
    People learned for Apple, for a piece of that giant market. Many people learned Java for the same reason.

    If you look at what you have to program in to make an iOS app (Objective C), I am pretty happy with Google's choice.
  • Re:Free? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by icebraining (1313345) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @05:14AM (#39720825) Homepage

    It's not a "little detail". It's a fundamental characteristic of Java, which "was a major reason why Oracle acquired Sun" [sic].

    If he didn't know that before spending $5.6 billion to acquire it, he's nothing short of incompetent. Of course, we all know he far from that.

  • by ledow (319597) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @05:17AM (#39720835) Homepage

    As the articles on Groklaw themselves comment:

    Google couldn't use the name Java. So "scrub the J-word" is hardly damning evidence of wanton infringement. In fact, it's their only legal option. Sun basically said that anyone could use the code so long as they DIDN'T call it Java. It's like the IceWeasel / Firefox thing. They have no choice. So not illegal, and not really immoral.

    Of course they were circumventing the need to have a Java ME license. That's not the issue, and not illegal. The question is, did they circumvent it properly, or did they get caught on the snags of not doing a proper job of it (i.e. can ANYONE make something Java-like or even use Java code without stepping on things that are IMPOSSIBLE to work around?). This is within the realm of reverse-engineering and IP-skirting. You don't want to pay for their patents, so you work to AVOID them instead. Again, hardly illegal or even immoral.

    The GPL thing? They didn't want to use GPL code. Simple as that. Nor do quite a few huge companies. That's their choice. And rather than that just plain infringe GPL code or get the GPL taken down in a court. Again - they didn't want to do something, their only legal avenue was to find an alternative and work around the problem. They can licence their own code under whatever license they want and they can start from ANY licence or licenced code that they choose as a basis to start from. Not illegal, not immoral.

    Now, if it were Microsoft? I think they'd avoid the GPL like a plague too. Google didn't make up their own "open" licence though, that's basically useless for anyone trying to contribute, which Microsoft have in the past. And MS have DEFINITELY avoided using certain trademarked names (and tried to enforce trademarks on things like Windows in the past, etc.) and DEFINITELY worked around patents that others owned rather than licence them (their Office suite comes to mind).

    The question really is, where's your bias come from?

  • Re:Good answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by buchner.johannes (1139593) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @07:00AM (#39721209) Homepage Journal

    I've always pondered about yes/no answers in court. I've seen judges demand either a yes or no answer on many occasions, yet to me it seems to conflict with a fundamental principle, at least in the UK justice system.

    When you give your oath to the court in the UK it's "I promise to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth".

    I remember being taught in history class of all things that it used to simply be "I promise to tell the truth, and nothing but the truth". The whole truth section was added later to prevent people giving answers that whilst true, only paint half the picture due to missing vital information or context.

    So I've often wondered in this context how a judge can push for yes/no, as in many circumstances it betrays this fundamental principle in that either answer only tells a partial truth and not a whole truth. Has this principle ever been tested? To me being forced to give a yes/no answer would mean that I was betraying my vow to tell the whole truth as either answer would only be a partial truth in a more complex situation.

    This is one of those circumstances where such an answer would in my opinion, violate such a vow, and as much as I want Oracle to lose I do also sympathise with the difficulty of just answering yes/no to that particular question.

    You can also not answer the question "Did you stop beating your wife?" with Yes/No. Also, there are plenty of questions where the answer is between Yes and No.

  • Re:Free? (Score:0, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @07:28AM (#39721311)

    He didn't say he wanted 10% of Larry's salary; 10% of what he gets. I'd like 10% of what Romney gets, and he doesn't get paid a dime. Still, he manages to live like a king. Quit thinking that earned income is the only measure of compensation.

  • Re:Free? (Score:2, Insightful)

    by ZeroSumHappiness (1710320) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @07:32AM (#39721339)

    "Corporations are a person my friend..." -- Misunderstanding of Mitt Romney.

    Anyone who bothered to look into the context of his statement would understand he clearly meant that corporations are made up of many persons (sometimes referred to as "people") and that each individual in the corporation is taxed on his own.

  • by msobkow (48369) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @08:10AM (#39721517) Homepage Journal

    Just to clarify: Although Java is technically free because it was released under the GPL, it's not free because in practice all the enhancements and changes to the core code and syntax come through the management and control of the consortium. So although you can make your own changes to the GPL code, I don't know of any way to get those changes upstream without going through the feature committees.

  • Re:Good answer (Score:5, Insightful)

    by raitchison (734047) * <robert@aitchison.org> on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @09:44AM (#39722239) Homepage Journal

    Too bad anybody who was warning us at the time when it could have been avoided was promptly labeled a "Micro$oft Shill"

  • by canajin56 (660655) on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @09:48AM (#39722275)
    So the Linux kernel isn't compatible with the GPL, because although technically released under the GPL, I can't get my changes upstream without going through the group in charge of it? OK.

    At any rate, the question according to not-tfa (which confuses GPL with public domain), the question wasn't the ambiguous "is java free?" but "anyone can use the JPL (java programming language) without paying royalties, yes?" which he had previously answered "Correct" in the deposition, and on the stand he tried to be evasive.

    The problem is that Oracle is saying that although the code is GPL, the API is proprietary, so by writing code while referencing the API Google has violated copyright and needs a license for all of their code. (They also have mostly-invalidated patent claims, to be settled later). Suing over patents and suing over the API mean its a very legit question to ask if ANYBODY can use Java without being sued by Oracle, and Oracle WILL NOT SAY.

  • Re:Good answer (Score:3, Insightful)

    by hairyfeet (841228) <bassbeast1968@NOspaM.gmail.com> on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @09:56AM (#39722339) Journal

    I don't understand why he didn't know the answer except maybe he doesn't really know the products that he has acquired. the desktop was always free, the mobile always pay, no different than how many companies have a free consumer version and a non-free business version.

    What always amazes me is how completely rampant the hypocrisy is in the tech community as the very same ones who had a living shitfit when MSFT tried to pull the exact same trick with the desktop (which was free) have NO problem when Google does it with mobile which was never free in the first place! you can't have your cake and eat it too, either any corp can do anything they want to a language no matter what the original creator thinks or one must bow to the original creator, pick already!

    Because the only difference between this and what MSFT did was Google changed the name. tell me if MSFT had called theirs coffee would you have supported them? probably not, yet you do Google, why? Because Google basically snatched the Linux kernel and then hands it to companies that then lock the bootloader? Kinda sad that the FOSS advocates are so damned desperate for a win they will blindly champion a company that isn't doing them any favors and is gathering so much data on its users it makes every triple letter agency drool. Maybe one should see what RMS has to say about it? If his feelings on Google are like his feelings on Chrome [technewsworld.com] again you may not be doing anybody in favors by cheering Google here.

  • by Tenebrousedge (1226584) <[moc.liamg] [ta] [egdesuorbenet]> on Wednesday April 18, 2012 @01:37PM (#39724835)

    Oracle would like to enforce a copyright claim on a programming language. Sun v. Microsoft was a trademark dispute.

    Oracle is not claiming that Google has used the Java trademarks. This phase of the trial will only examine whether Google has violated Oracle's copyrights, and there will be no examination of trademarks in any phase.

    Neither party seems to want to directly examine the question of whether programming languages or APIs can be copyrighted, which I find confusing. Oracle's stance on this issue is obvious, but Google's arguments are a little more interesting:

    Google expects the following 3 findings to be reached:

            1) there was no copyright infringement; the language is free and the APIs are necessary to use it.
            2) Sun approved its use.
            3) Android is a fair use of the Java APIs.

    I take from this that Google is arguing that programming languages may be copyrighted, but that Java was released under an open source license which Google is complying with. Point #2 seems very difficult to dispute; even Mr. One Rich Asshole has been very complimentary of Google's efforts with Java/Android.

    With regard to the linux kernel, which has zero to do with this lawsuit, Google has operated with respect to the law and the GPL; they have released the source for every binary they've distributed, and they are actively trying to merge their code with the upstream project. RMS is an idealist, and many F/OSS advocates support him in principle; you could call him the conscience of computing. However, it is recognized by all but the fanatically religious that pure ideologies function only in an ideal world, which we are not fortunate enough to live in.

    Today, we recognize that Oracle is a threat to free computing. Tomorrow we may take up the issue of free data with Google -- I sincerely doubt that meaningful digital privacy is possible, in practice if not in theory.

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