java licensing

The Java OTN License Agreement

The Java OTN License Agreement

  • Definition: Governs use of Java SE under Oracle Technology Network (OTN).
  • Non-Commercial Use: Free for personal projects, development, testing, prototyping, and education.
  • Commercial Use: Requires a production, business operations, and distribution license.
  • Exceptions: It is free if it is part of another Oracle product or if deployed on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI).

The Java Oracle Technology Network (OTN) License Agreement sets specific terms and conditions for using Java software.

This agreement is crucial for developers and organizations to understand and delineate what is permissible under free use and what requires a commercial license.

This article will provide a comprehensive overview of the Java OTN License Agreement, highlighting its key provisions, exceptions, and implications for users.

Overview of the Java OTN License Agreement

Overview of the Java OTN License Agreement

Before Java OTN was introduced, Java was licensed under the Binary Code License Agreement.

The Java OTN License Agreement primarily governs using Oracle’s Java SE (Standard Edition) products. Under this agreement, the free use of Java is severely limited, with specific conditions and exceptions.

The primary stipulation is that Java cannot be used commercially without a Java license. However, this rule has notable exceptions, which we will explore in detail.

Key Provisions of the Java OTN License Agreement

  1. Non-Commercial Use:
    • The OTN License explicitly states that Java SE can be used for free only for non-commercial purposes. This includes personal use, development, testing, prototyping, and demonstrating applications.
  2. Commercial Use:
    • Any commercial use of Java SE requires a paid subscription or license. Commercial use includes deploying Java in production environments, using it in business operations, or distributing applications that incorporate Java SE.
  3. Exceptions to Commercial Use Restrictions:
    • Oracle Product Inclusion: If Java SE is part of another Oracle product that includes Java, this usage is covered under the OTN License without needing an additional commercial license.
    • Personal Use: Individuals using Java for personal projects, learning, or non-commercial hobbies can do so freely.
    • Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI): Deploying Java on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure is permitted without additional licensing costs. This incentivizes users to leverage Oracle’s cloud services while using Java SE.

Free vs. Commercial Features

Understanding what is free and what is not under the Java OTN License is essential for compliance and cost management.

Free Use Cases:

  • Personal Projects: Individuals working on personal, non-commercial projects can use Java SE for free.
  • Development and Testing: Developers can use Java SE to develop and test applications without licensing fees.
  • Educational Purposes: Educational institutions can use Java SE for teaching and academic research without a commercial license.
  • Prototyping and Demonstration: Creating prototypes or demonstrating applications does not require a commercial license, provided these activities are not for commercial gain.

Commercial Use Cases:

  • Production Environments: Deploying Java SE in live production environments for business operations.
  • Business Applications: Using Java SE in sold or used commercial applications.
  • Commercial Distribution: Distributing software that includes Java SE as a component for commercial purposes.

Java OTN License Agreement in Practice

Java OTN License Agreement in Practice

To better understand the implications of the Java OTN License Agreement, let’s examine a few practical scenarios:

  1. Developing a Personal Application:
    • If you are developing an application for personal use or as a hobby, you can use Java SE under the OTN License without a commercial license. This remains true as long as the application is not distributed for commercial gain.
  2. Educational Use:
    • A university using Java SE in its computer science curriculum can do so under the OTN License. Students and educators can freely develop, test, and demonstrate applications as part of their coursework.
  3. Small Business Development:
    • A small business developing an internal tool using Java SE for in-house use would require a commercial license if the tool is deployed in a production environment. However, if the development is solely for testing or prototyping, it falls under the free-use provision.
  4. Deploying Java on OCI:
    • An organization using Oracle Cloud Infrastructure to host their applications can deploy Java SE on OCI without additional licensing costs. This exception is part of Oracle’s strategy to promote its cloud services.
  5. Using Java as Part of an Oracle Product:
    • If a company uses an Oracle product that includes Java SE, such as Oracle Database, the use of Java SE within that product is covered by the product’s license. No additional Java SE license is required for this scenario.

Java Commercial Features and Licensing Implications

Java Commercial Features and Licensing Implications

Certain advanced features in Java SE, designated as commercial features, always trigger the need for a commercial license, regardless of the context in which Java is used.

These features include:

  1. Java Flight Recorder (JFR):
    • A powerful tool for collecting diagnostic and profiling data about running Java applications. It is essential for performance tuning but requires a commercial license.
  2. Java Mission Control (JMC):
    • JMC provides advanced tools for managing, monitoring, and optimizing Java applications. Due to its sophisticated capabilities, using JMC requires a commercial license.
  3. Java Advanced Management Console (AMC):
    • Used for managing Java installations and settings across an organization. AMC’s centralized management features are particularly valuable for enterprise environments but come under commercial licensing.
  4. Java Usage Tracker:
    • Tracks and logs Java application usage to help organizations manage their Java deployments and ensure compliance with licensing requirements. This feature also requires a commercial license.

Compliance and Best Practices

Organizations and developers must comply with the Java OTN License Agreement to avoid legal and financial repercussions.

Here are some best practices:

  1. Regular Audits:
    • Conduct regular audits of your Java usage to ensure compliance. Identify all instances of Java SE and verify that they are used according to the license terms.
  2. Clear Documentation:
    • Maintain clear documentation of how Java SE is used within your organization. This includes tracking development, testing, production deployments, and commercial features.
  3. Leverage OCI:
    • Consider deploying Java SE on Oracle Cloud Infrastructure to maximize the free-use provision. This can reduce licensing costs while leveraging Oracle’s cloud services.
  4. Training and Awareness:
    • Educate your development and IT teams about the licensing terms of the Java OTN License Agreement. Ensure that everyone understands what constitutes free use versus commercial use.
  5. Consult with Oracle:
    • If in doubt, consult with Oracle or a licensing expert to clarify any ambiguities in the license terms. This can help prevent unintentional violations and ensure full compliance.


The Java OTN License Agreement is a crucial framework governing the use of Java SE. While it allows free use in non-commercial scenarios, it imposes strict limitations on commercial usage and requires proper licensing. If you want free versions of Java, look at versions licensed under Java NFTC agreement.

By understanding the key provisions, exceptions, and implications of the OTN License, organizations, and developers can navigate the licensing landscape effectively, ensuring compliance and optimizing their use of Java SE.


  • Fredrik Filipsson

    Fredrik Filipsson brings two decades of Oracle license management experience, including a nine-year tenure at Oracle and 11 years in Oracle license consulting. His expertise extends across leading IT corporations like IBM, enriching his profile with a broad spectrum of software and cloud projects. Filipsson's proficiency encompasses IBM, SAP, Microsoft, and Salesforce platforms, alongside significant involvement in Microsoft Copilot and AI initiatives, enhancing organizational efficiency.

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