More likely to be a clock issue. Since the current system time is compared against the file timestamp, perhaps something has changed slightly in 2003. You usually only get this problem with between two systems - e.g. The deployment file is on another system.
Have you tried perhaps a 1.4.2 JDK? Since Java relies heavily on the underlying OS it sounds like something is not quite meshing between 2003 and the JVM. Particularly if the same installation works fine on XP.
Same problem with J2SDK 1.4.2_02. Bummer.
Then looking at the clock I see that the time is set correctly for the Month, Day and time, however, the year is 2002. Change it to 2003 and problem solved.
So what time is javac looking at if not the system time? I would imagine the same problem would not have happened if I was deploying this a year ago so it must be some time that is provided external to my system.
Either way I can move on!