Friday, October 07, 2005

The JBoss Issue

The EJBoss project was founded in 1999, which is now generally known as JBoss. JBoss was from the beginning an effort aimed at providing the core infrastructure needed when implementing enterprise scale systems based on the Java EE specifications. The project has been widely successful, and has been adopted by many different organizations and companies around the world. It is also one of the main examples of how OpenSource solutions can compete with commercially licensed servers in a space where innovation and community is vital.

The idea was to make something freely available which would typically have been attainable only by companies and organizations with a large wallet. The creation of such a core piece of technology, which fuels the very hearts of IT-systems both large and small, using the OpenSource licensing and development environment, was something that many of us found very attractive. I was a student at the time, and this also gave me personally a learning experience that would have been more or less impossible to achieve otherwise. To be a part of something so great was a privilege and honor.

When Marc Fleury founded the JBoss Group, and later JBoss Inc., I had initally hoped that we shared the same views of what our work was all about. As the development progressed I later realized that we did not share the same view of OpenSource and open collaboration, and I decided to quit the project and company and move on to other things. This was not an easy decision to make, and I always hoped that good things would come out of it.

I was quite happy with moving on to other exciting projects, some of which even used JBoss as its foundation. I was, as it were, a happy user of the JBoss application server, which helped me see the other side of things. What then happened is now commonly known as the "Fake JBoss" issue. Individuals who expressed and brought forward issues with JBoss, both on technical and personal levels, were being harassed in various online forums. It got to such a level that I and a number of other people got curious about it, and decided to find out what was going on. It was much to our surprise that it turned out that it was top executives and developers of JBoss Inc. who were behind these fake personas. It is one thing to have different opinions about various issues, but it is another thing entirely to use faked identities, complete with names and company affiliations, and behave in such a way. As strange as it looked, the evidence were quite compelling, and yet a formal apology for this behaviour was never issued by JBoss Inc. In their defense they did apologize for something completely different, which is better than nothing I suppose.

Which brings us to today, and the reason for the creation of this blog. It is with great sadness that it has come to my attention that JBoss Inc. has gone quite insane in how they conduct business. They have cancelled the partnerships with a majority of the German service provider companies, sued at least one of them for using the "JBoss" name, and tried to acquire and use the customer list of said companies. This is so far beyond acceptable business conduct, on so many levels, that I, and the other individuals behind this blog, have decided to provide a place where information about this situation can be provided in a cohesive and complete manner.

The use of trademarks, which in the case of "JBoss" covers both the product and any related services, to stifle competition is a practice which very much defeats the purpose of OpenSource and FOSS, and is designed to create a monopoly situation whereby only JBoss Inc. and partners can offer such services, coupled with a pricing strategy that is quite aggressive and far from "free". Even most commercial vendors do not limit service companies to use the name of products to offer services, but somehow JBoss Inc. feels that this is a viable way to gain a business advantage. OpenSource is supposed, I believe, to be about collaboration and fair competition, not about who happened to get the trademark registrated first. It's not good for customers, and it is not good for the overall business ecology.

In addition to this issue, there is also the fundamental problem of licensing of JBoss. It has come to my attention that while the JBoss project references the LGPL license, the license does not and can not apply to JBoss since it does not meet the prerequisites of the license. This includes, but is not limited to, the complete lack of proper copyright notices as is stated and required in the LGPL, section 1. This understanding has been checked and verified with the Free Software Foundation (FSF), who owns the LGPL license. In short, it is currently illegal to distribute JBoss because it does not have a valid license. The copyright ownership of JBoss is also quite messy, since it has been written by a large number of people over a large period of time, and there is no explicit copyright mentioned anywhere in the code. It will hence be quite difficult to resolve this issue, even though we really do hope that this is accomplished somehow. To have one of the main examples of FOSS be illegal is not a good thing. This issue applies to not only JBoss, but also other projects hosted by JBoss Inc., which includes, but is not limited to, Hibernate. We would all like to continue to use all of these excellent projects, so to have these problems fixed is in everyones interest.

Apart from providing the information and timeline related to all these issues, the blog will also have a status meter that shows the current situation with regard to the central problems mentioned. This blog will be continue to be updated as long as one or more of these issues are still unresolved.

We encourage any other individuals and/or companies who are in similar situations with regard to JBoss Inc. to send us whatever related information they have available. It will be published here, anonymously if required, so that the full scope of this situation can be known.

sincerely,
Rickard Öberg