“Let’s have a chat about Java licensing”, says unsolicited Oracle e-mail

“Let’s have a chat about Java licensing”, says unsolicited Oracle e-mail

Experts have warned that anyone engaging Oracle following the email could be helping the company prepare for a "soft audit".

Published on 5th July 2023

Oracle is firing off unsolicited emails to businesses offering to discuss Java subscription deals, seemingly in an effort to extract information which could be to its benefit in future license negotiations.

The email arrives from a Java enterprise account executive and promises “some news to share regarding Java Licensing & Security.”

Big Red announced its new Java SE Universal Subscription in January, a move it said would offer “a simple, low-cost monthly subscription that includes Java SE Licensing and Support for use on Desktops, Servers or Cloud deployments.”

However, at the time, experts warned that could force businesses to pay tens of thousands of dollars more each month for running the same software under the new Java licensing terms, which charge per employee, rather than processor or user.

In the latest email, Oracle appeals to recipients to start conversations about a “New Universal Subscription Site License.”

“Customers no longer need to count every processor or user name,” the email said. “Whether or not you have previous knowledge of Java Licensing or even had a conversation with a member of our team regarding the changes… a new conversation may be worthwhile.”

Fredrik Filipsson, director of software licensing advisory firm Redress Compliance, told The Register that three small businesses had contacted the company for advice about the email in the last four weeks.

“They don’t really have that much experience in Oracle. They don’t really know how to reply,” said Filipsson.

He said one business contacted him having engaged with Oracle after receiving the email. It was running Java on five servers, but Oracle had said it was now due for a £100,000 ($127,000) subscription to run its Java software.

A former Oracle licensing executive, Filipsson said anyone engaging Oracle following the email could be helping the company prepare for “soft audits” – a sales exercise based on measures of information about current licences, rather than an official audit.

“They are actually providing Oracle with information about how they deploy Java. But they are just talking to a salesperson,” he said.

Filipsson has recounted the path of a number of businesses conversations with Oracle over Java licensing in a blog.

In it, he claims that if a customer provides Oracle with information about its use of Java, Oracle might claim “the customer needs to license hundreds, sometimes thousands, of processors due to a few Java installations on VMware.”

He recommended organizations using Oracle should be confident that they are correctly licensing its software correctly, and ignore this effort to engage.

Oracle’s interest in Java licensing has been increasing since spring of last year when The Register reported that Oracle had begun to include the software in its licensing audits. In February, Gartner warned that Oracle “actively targets organizations” on Java compliance following the introduction of new contractual terms for the code.

Oracle licensing expert Craig Guarente, Palisade Compliance founder and CEO, told us organizations should reply to Oracle if they receive the email but be careful not to give away information about their use of Oracle software unnecessarily.

“It’s Oracle’s IP, and they have a right to monetize it the way they see fit, and every customer who uses it has an obligation to be in compliance. No one is questioning that, but if I were receiving that email, I’d probably make a phone call back to Oracle and have a conversation with them and ask them questions without giving much information away. Obviously, I would know my compliance position before I made that call,” he said.


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