Oracle Schemes Schema Protection in JDEREF Website Shutdown
April 14, 2014 Alex Woodie
Concerns about intellectual property infringement led Oracle‘s lawyers to force a JD Edwards support website to shut down. The UK-based website JDEREF.com says it agreed to pull down the content of its site after receiving a threatening letter from Oracle’s managing counsel about violations of Oracle’s copyright concerning database schemas for JD Edwards EnterpriseOne.
“It is with a heavy heart that I must inform you that jderef.com can no longer exist, having recently been served legal notice from Oracle regarding information copyright infringements relating to their product schemas,” the website’s webmaster posted to the site. “This is a bitter blow, not only for me personally, having invested many hours creating this shared resource, but mostly for the users like you, who have started to depend on the presence of this resource, to use and enhance JDE and its satellite products–to further your knowledge and insight into Oracles flagship ERP products.”
Apparently, Oracle’s legal team doesn’t take such a democratic view on the sharing of detailed technical information about its products. While there are numerous websites that provide technical resources for JD Edwards professionals, and plenty of third-party firms who will service your JD Edwards applications and databases, JDEREF.com apparently shared a little too much in too public a manner.
According to the JDEREF.com webmaster, the website contained all table names, column descriptions, and table indexes for the majority of the database tables for JD Edwards Enterprise One versions 8.12 and 9.10. “The information was grouped by ‘system code’ and contained, for each version, around 5,000 tables, all logically [but not human readable] named by an alphanumerical naming convention” such as F4101, the webmaster says via email. Each of the columns in the tables (up to 200 columns per table) were also alphanumerically named.
Collectively, this information constituted the database schema for the ERP system. “It was a very well structured site with a great UI which meant the data was easily accessible–and above all–a convenient reference,” the webmaster says.
JD Edwards makes this data difficult to obtain. If you know where you look and have the access, it’s clunky and awkward to use. “The JDEREF site just made life easier. That’s the whole reason I built it,” the webmaster wrote. “As a JDE user myself, I constantly need to refer to this data, so I built my own database of this information.” The webmaster decided to give something back to the community, and it was very well received.
But, as the saying goes, no good deed goes unpunished.
Database schemas are considered the intellectual property of the software company or individual who created them. Software companies like Oracle license database schemas to others as part of their overall product. After all, a schema is pretty much useless by itself, but forms the critical foundational layer when implemented on a database management system, such as Oracle’s database, IBM‘s DB2 for i, DB2 for LUW, and Microsoft SQL Server, the three RDBMs that EnterpriseOne runs on. (JD Edwards World, of course, only runs on IBM i, and therefore only has schemas for DB2 for i, or DB2/400).
With the proper technical skills and the right tools, any licensee of a JDE product could view the schema and the collection of database tables that it encompasses. This may be useful to do to track down problems or to plan for an expansion or other modification of the underlying database schema.
This is undoubtedly what JDERF.com was doing as it helped programmers and administrators deal with performance issues and make or fix the custom modifications that are so commonly made to JDE installations. Nobody is going to complain about the schema changes a company makes in the privacy of its own bedroom. However, take those detailed discussions of the size, shape, and nature of the JD Edwards database into a public venue, and be prepared to receive a threatening letter from Oracle’s lawyer.
The JDERF.com webmaster wonders why a $50 billion company would bother with a small UK-based firm. “Personally, I’m of the opinion that this is a rather narrow sighted view adopted by Oracle’s product team given that: A) it’s supporting their product; B) anyone with access to JDE will technically be able to obtain this information anyway, albeit in a far less convenient and expedient fashion; and C) any competitors will have long since already obtained this information.
“But as a private individual based in the UK,” the webmaster continues, “I have no choice but to concede. I don’t fancy going up against charges from Oracle’s legal teams. It was only a matter of time before my little website got the attention of Oracle, but this was not the response I was hoping for.”
If you feel like helping out JDEREF.com, visit the website or send a note to Oracle asking to have them reinstate the website–or better yet, buy the information and make the information publicly available on Oracle’s website. Like the JDEREF webmaster said, the information was a big help to JD Edwards customers, and assisted them with supporting their implementations. Surely helping JD Edwards customers is something Oracle is interested in.