[Kaffe] can the classpath project be used with Kaffe.

Alex Nicolaou anicolao at mud.cgl.uwaterloo.ca
Tue Feb 9 22:24:44 PST 1999

Godmar Back wrote:
> I would not phrase it this way.
> It's not to stave off competitors that come into Transvirtual's market
> with a competing VM.  It is only directed towards those competitors who
> use code written by TVT in their proprietary products.  A fine, but
> important difference, if you ask me.

Agreed; this is what I meant to write. 

Kaffe, by sheer virtue of its existance, actually encourages competition
in the VM market by providing another implementation to study and
understand for the potential competitor. Presumably Transvirtual has
more to gain from the ongoing development of Kaffe than they have to
lose to the potential competitor studying Kaffe to understand how JVMs
work and how they can be implemented. Alternately, they may simply have
high ideals, and wish to provide the GPL code. Most likely, reality lies
somewhere in the middle of these extremes.

> >
> > Now, this is not quite true. The authors can only sell their code if
> > they don't distribute Kaffe with it.
> Distribution does not cover what is known in copyright law as aggregration,
> and this is why your example about burning a CD that has Kaffe on it does
> not hold up.

This is very fuzzy in the license. On one hand "mere aggregation of
another work not based on the Program with the Program...does not bring
the other work under the scope of this License", so your contention that
aggregation is distinct from distribution seems quite correct. 

On the other hand, can you say that your Java program has none of the
property that it "in whole or in part contains or is derived from the
Program"? What exactly is "containment" in the modern world of dloading
everything? The Java bytecode requires Kaffe to run; thus they are
contained in each other, are they not? I think this is a fine point of
law that would need to be argued in court. To make it truly foggy, what
if the bytecode uses classes that are only distributed as part of Kaffe,
or uses features that only the Kaffe VM implements? Then surely these
programs are "derived from the Program", since in no other way could one
conceive of writing them other than knowing Kaffe's interfaces?

In any case, I think I'm more inclined to your view, which is that
proprietary software could probably be shipped with Kaffe's VM to run
it. I agree that Transvirtual would have to sue to make it an issue.
However, I don't think the GPL is clear on this point. I could not
recommend to my employer that they use Kaffe as the VM that is shipped
with a commercial product, without the employer retaining legal counsel
to verify that the license was clean. I'm afraid that the lawyers are a
lot more anal than we are :-(


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