On Tuesday, September 14, 2021, Oracle announced that it is making its “Oracle JDK available for free” even for commercial and/or production use, but the JRE (Java Runtime Environment) is still a licensed product for a fee
That’s welcome news. Let’s examine what that means.
- First off, this is only the Java Development Kit or “JDK” which again will be a separate download. Since Java SE 10, there has been a single download, but Oracle will now make the JRE (“Java Runtime Environment”) and the JDK separate. The JRE for commercial or production use remains licensable.
- Second, this announcement has an event horizon. When the next Long Term Service or “LTS” release is made available, the period of free use will end one (1) year later. This free-use period is referred as No-Fee Terms and Conditions or “NFTC”. Oracle had been gone on record as making every third release an LTS release. But that has gone by the wayside. The next LTS release, as of this writing, is Release 21, which is due to become available in September 2023 (but per Oracle, these designations of LTS or non-LTS are subject to change).
- Third, once the free-use period ends, Java SE subscriptions will once again be governed by the Oracle Technology Network License Agreement for Oracle Java SE. That agreement currently includes the following language:
Oracle grants You a nonexclusive, nontransferable, limited license to use the Programs, subject to the restrictions stated in this Agreement and Program Documentation, only for:
(i) Personal Use,
(ii) Development Use,
(iii) Oracle Approved Product Use, and/or
(iv) Oracle Cloud Infrastructure Use.
“Personal Use” is defined by Oracle in that same document as “… an Individual’s use of the Programs solely on a desktop or laptop computer under such Individual’s control only to run Personal Applications.”
“Development Use” is defined as “… Your internal use of the Programs to develop, test, prototype and demonstrate Your Applications. For purposes of clarity, the “to develop” grant includes using the Programs to run profilers, debuggers and Integrated Development Environments (IDE Tools) where the primary purpose of the IDE Tools is profiling, debugging and source code editing Applications.”
Lastly, Oracle states that this change does not apply to prior versions.
Potential Java Licensing Exposure:
Previously, Oracle has said they might seek “retroactive” Java fees for organizations using it without a license, when announcing their new Java Management Service.
Even if you use Oracle products like Weblogic or Solaris which come with Java embedded, you still need to license Java if you use it for any other application (and you probably do).
Licensing the JRE follows the same policies as other Technology stack products in terms of Oracle’s rules around the core-factor, virtualization, and Proprietary Hosting.
So coupled with segregating those environments, this new announcement on the Oracle JDK has the potential to further reduce costs by eliminating (at least for a while) the fees for a good number of desktop subscriptions. Just be certain that the users download only the Oracle JDK.