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From Dalibor Topic <robi...@kaffe.org>
Subject Re: NDA issues and acceptable use of sun source (was: Re: JavaSound Was: java.sql.*)
Date Mon, 13 Feb 2006 02:07:25 GMT
Leo Simons <mail <at> leosimons.com> writes:

> If you put a notice to that effect onto your authorized contributor form
> that should probably be fine. If you can't remember what bit of the
> implementation you looked at, chances are you also don't remember what you
> saw! 

People have been successfully sued for violating copyrights of works that
they didn't mean to plagiarize, but had accessed prior to writing their own. 
See McCarthy's My Sweet Lord/He's So Fine lawsuit.

> Sun has repeatedly and publicly stated that this kind of usage should
> not "taint" a developer.

That does not necessarily mean that the developer is free to implement 
the same specs, and distribute the results under an open source license.
 
See http://lists.gnu.org/archive/html/classpath/2005-05/msg00014.html
for details.

N.B. Sun keeps updating the JRL so they may, or may not have fixed
some of the bugs I explain in that post.

> Chances are that the NDA is either
> 
>  * expired, or
>  * voided

The simplest way to know is for the contributor to check with Sun's 
legal department, since it's an agreement between him and Sun, I 
presume. If we can have that on paper, that's fine. If Sun or "the 
company owning Java after Sun collapses" ever hauls us into court, 
having a paper trail for contributions, in particular potentionally 
legally challenging ones, is a good thing.

> Since the JDK stuff is now all mostly out in the public, and most NDAs
> are effectively voided once the information they are meant to protect is
> available through other means not involving an NDA.

I'd be vary of that. What closed source licenses like JRL, SCSL, etc.
do is to partition people into two groups, one on the inside of the 
shared secret barrier, and one on the outside. If they had no intent 
to ever enforce the separation, there wouldn't be one.

If you parse the language in the SCSL carefully, it talks quite a 
bit about intellectual property rights, including trade secrets, 
and other proprietary technology licenses from the same company do 
the same. Whether partially more liberal proprietary source code 
licenses from the same source actually remove obligations from more 
restrictive ones, or keep piling requirements on top of each other, 
is very hard to say, since they are not designed to be replace 
another ... the SCSL never mentions the JRL as superceding it, for 
example. I'd be vary of guessing what the legal status is of 
someone who's bound by several such agreements and NDAs.

There is no way the Harmony project can sort out the legal mess
left behind Sun decisively, since any such thing would have to 
play out in the courts, and we certainly don't want to have to 
have to go there.

In absence of court decisions, there is just the possibility to draw
very clear lines what constitutes safe contributions and what doesn't.
Such lines are necessarily going to exclude more people that 
court-tested lines would, but they have the killer feature of not
having to go to court with Sun in order to determine them. ;)

cheers,
dalibor topic


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