I recently covered a story with a happy ending: the nasty (and misleading) legal barbed-wire in front of NetBeans got taken down. Next step: let’s do the same thing for Java.net. Read on for excerpts from the legals, but the bottom line is simple: to non-lawyers (like me), this is scary stuff. The person who pointed this out to me closed with the words “and so I’m not a member of java.net.”

My correspondent pointed me at this Terms of Participation language: “You agree to indemnify and hold the Hosts and their subsidiaries, affiliates, officers, agents, co-branders or other partners, and employees, harmless from any claim or demand, including reasonable attorneys’ fees, (i) made by any third party due to or arising out of any Submission you submit, post to or transmit through this web site; (ii) your violation of the web site Terms of Participation; or (iii) your violation of any rights of another.” That page also calls in the Sun.com Terms of Use, including: “You agree to indemnify and hold Sun and its subsidiaries, affiliates, shareholders, officers, directors, agents, licensors, suppliers, alliance members, other partners, employees and representatives harmless from any claim or demand, including reasonable attorneys’ fees, made by any third party due to or arising out of Your Content, Your use of or connection to the Website (including any use by You on behalf of Your employer), Your violation of the Terms, or Your violation of any rights of another.”

My correspondent went on to say: “I’m just an engineer, but the way I read this it means that if one of my postings shows up as exhibit 4367 in a lawsuit between Sun and some other mega-corporation, Sun can ask me to donate my life-time savings to cover its legal fees... I don’t want to take that risk, and so I’m not a member of java.net.”

Ouch. I am a member of Java.net and I am not a lawyer. So maybe those terms don’t say what they seem to say. Or if they do, someone needs to explain why they’re appropriate on a community site. Since the Java.net community seems to be a fine, and well-run thing, I suspect there’s a good solution to this problem just waiting to happen.


author · Dad · software · colophon · rights
picture of the day
August 14, 2005
· Technology (85 fragments)
· · Java (123 more)
· Business (112 fragments)
· · Law (1 more)

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I am an employee of Amazon.com, but the opinions expressed here are my own, and no other party necessarily agrees with them.

A full disclosure of my professional interests is on the author page.