What's a field of use restriction?

I have been asked to be more explicit about the 'field of use restriction' cited in my earlier posting. To be honest, I can't be — yet.

The field of use restriction that Apache is talking about is part of the TCK for JSR 176. That is, the technology compatibility kit that anyone who claims to properly implement Java SE 5 must run (and pass).

In order to gain access to that TCK, organizations like IBM or Apache must execute a specific TCK license agreement with Sun. According to Apache, that license agreement places restrictions on how the software tested with that TCK (in this case, an implementation of Java SE 5) can be used.

A challenge is that I don't have a copy of the TCK license agreement for JSR 176, so I can't see the field of use language; Sun considers it a proprietary document. (Apache is prohibited from sharing it with me either.) So, that leaves journalists, analysts, outside experts and the greater Java community to consider Apache's claims without having access to the source document.

The closest we can come (so far) to seeing what Sun actually requires is the following Q&A in an Apache FAQ document:

Q : What is a "field of use" restriction?

A : A "field of use" restriction is a restriction that limits how a user can use a given piece of software, either directly or indirectly. To give a concrete example from the Sun / Apache dispute, if Apache accepted Sun's terms, then users of a standard, tested build of Apache Harmony for Linux on a standard general purpose x86-based computer (for example, a Dell desktop) would be prevented from freely using that software and that hardware in any application where the computer was placed in an enclosed cabinet, like an information kiosk at a shopping mall, or an X-ray machine at an airport.

I have formally asked Sun to provide SD Times a copy of the TCK license agreement for JSR 176. It is in the public interest to make the text of this license available to the entire Java community, including the media. Restricting access to the contract is contrary to the spirit of community software development. Let's see how Sun responds.

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Co-founder and editorial director of BZ Media, which publishes SD Times, the leading magazine for the software development industry. Founder of SPTechCon: The SharePoint Technology Conference, AnDevCon: The Android Developer Conference, and Big Data TechCon. Also president and principal analyst of Camden Associates, an IT consulting and analyst firm.