Oracle Is Starting To Fine Customers Who Thought They Were Using Free Java Software

Oracle Is Starting To Fine Customers Who Thought They Were Using Free Java Software

Oracle continues to see its traditional software revenues decline while it races to move its customers to the cloud. But it may have a plan to shore up those shrinking revenues.

The company is ramping up software audits involving its Java software, reports The Register’s Gavin Clarke. Audits are when a software company investigates customers it suspects of not properly paying for their software usage.

In this case however, companies may be shocked to learn that they owe Oracle anything for using Java because Java software is widely believed to be free to use.

And people think that it’s free because part of it is free.

At issue, reports Clarke, is a hugely popular version of Java called Java Standard Edition (or Java SE), that anyone can download from the Oracle website.

One unnamed retailer that underwent an audit on Java was issued a $US100,000 bill, negotiated down to $US30,000, The Register reports. And this could be only the beginning. Sources told Clarke that Oracle has hired 20 Java specialists for its Licence Management Services (LMS) department, the ones who do the audits.

More To Come in 2017

Java is a programming language and platform for running the apps created in the language. If you simply want to write a Java app, there’s no charge to do that. But if you need to install that app on hundreds of the company’s Windows desktops so that employees can use it, that would require using a part of Java called the Microsoft Windows Installer Enterprise JRE Installer. That installer software is not free to use.

There are other parts of Java that are not free to use either, as well as other editions of Java that are not free. The fees

Oracle charges range from $US40 to $US300 per user, or from $US5000 to $US15,000 per processor on the computer running the software, Clarke reports.

Another reason these customers may be surprised is that Oracle hasn’t been particularly aggressive in auditing Java SE users since Oracle acquired Java’s creator, Sun Microsystems, in 2010.

So for six years, many companies haven’t been asked to pay up.

Oracle isn’t alone in using audits. It’s a common tactic used by all the giant enterprise software companies (Oracle, IBM, SAP, Microsoft). They have complex legal rules for how customers pay for software, using a variety of metrics such as how many people are using the software and which features of the software are being used.

It’s so easy for a companies to misunderstand the rules, there’s an entire industry, called software asset management, to help them navigate licensing contracts and audits.

‘Hostile Database Vendors’

As we previously reported back in 2015, customers told Business Insider that Oracle was ramping up audits of them. One customer told us it felt Oracle had asked for an audit as a tactic to pressure the customer into buying Oracle’s cloud product.

Tactics like this are what has given the company a reputation for being hard to work with, and this is something that Oracle’s new arch enemy, Amazon Web Services CEO Andy Jassy, loves to bring up when slamming Oracle.

At AWS’s big customer conference last month, Jassy talked about cloud computing as if it were a superhero. He said that one of its powers was the “super power of flight” which meant, “the freedom to unshackle from hostile database vendors.” This was one in a long list of slams he made toward Oracle.

Oracle could not be reached for comment and did not comment on the The Register’s article.

Disclosure: Jeff Bezos is an investor in Business Insider through hispersonal investment company Bezos Expeditions.

This article originally appeared on Business Insider Australia


  • I can’t recall a time where I’ve seen an article about Oracle, and it’s been a good thing…

  • Oracle are absolutely dicks. Their persistence API war is a good example of their bullshit (they aggressively tried to force out the JDO API in Java in favour of JPA because JPA makes it harder to use non-relational databases, which are Oracle’s core business).

    That said, there’s nothing commercial in Java SE. The only commercial features are part of Java SE ‘Advanced’ or ‘Suite’ releases, both of which are Oracle’s attempts to generate revenue from their purchase of Sun. You can use everything in Java SE without worrying about licensing costs. You can deploy the Java runtime environment on every computer on your corporate network without worrying about licensing costs. Licensing fees only apply when you use the ‘advanced’ Java SE versions or the MSI enterprise JRE installer, neither of which add anything even remotely worth the fees Oracle charges.

  • Yeah, I hope Oracle go under frankly. Their purchase of Sun is one of the biggest tragedies in the history of the technology industry.

    Also yet another reason why we should all retire Java too.

    • Java’s fine. One of the best things Sun did was ensure the licensing around Java was protected in a perpetual way, so Oracle hasn’t been able to lock down the language or any existing API. The JDO/JPA thing I mentioned above was dirty but for the most part Java is as strong as ever, and still the leading development language today in spite of Oracle’s blundering.

      And the thing is, Java really isn’t a moneymaker for Oracle. I’d also like to see them go under or at least eat some humble pie and reform their ways, and to be honest I think the best way to do that is to continue using things they invest time and money into but get nothing from me in return. Java and MySQL are both in that boat.

      • Haha – I personally dislike Java because I’m an IT manager, and it’s a pain in the arse to manage in an environment where multiple applciations are built with Java and require different versions. My issue is actually with software vendors that build commercial porducts with Java, rather than with Java itself.

        Yeah I see and agree with your point. Don’t forget VirtualBox too, that’s never going to be something that brings in any significant revenue. If I were Oracle, I’d probably be giving away all three of those properties.

  • CFO: “What? They are charging for that now? OK. I’m not going to bother looking into alternatives because I love being charged for things that used to be free. See if we can get it a bit cheaper, then carry on.”

    Said no CFO ever.

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