[kaffe] Using kaffe(GPL2) with other DFSG-compat licenses

Jim Pick jim at kaffe.org
Mon Aug 5 11:17:38 PDT 2002

On Mon, 2002-08-05 at 10:11, Grzegorz Prokopski wrote:
> Hello!
> I tried to google the aswer to my question, but it didn't work.
> So I'd like to ask you here.
> Q: "Kaffe is free implementation of Java Virtual Machine and ClassLib
> which are both available under the terms of GPL2 license. How does
> this affect possibility of using kaffe as development and runtime
> platform for other non-GPL licensed programs and libs?"
> Especially I think about Apache-type  licenses, like that one
> from ANT 
> http://www.mathweb.org/cvsweb/cvsweb.cgi/java/thirdParty/ant/LICENSE.txt?rev=1.1&content-type=text/x-cvsweb-markup&only_with_tag=HEAD
> (or click on "1.1" at
> http://www.mathweb.org/cvsweb/cvsweb.cgi/java/thirdParty/ant/LICENSE.txt?only_with_tag=HEAD
> to see it)
> from cocoon (looks similar to above one - I think)
> http://xml.apache.org/cocoon/license.html
> What are the objections?
> What are possible problems?
> Where are the borders of usage of kaffe?

I don't have any problems with using Kaffe with non-GPL applications.  I
had an interesting discussion with John Gilmore wrt. GPL contamination
across interpreter-application boundaries, and he adamantly felt that
there was not an issue there.  And he should know, having founded
Cygnus, with the business model of developing GPL'd compilers and
interpreters.  He gave me the email of the FSF's lawyer, in case I
needed any clarification.

Historically, Transvirtual's position was the GPL would contaminate
across the boundary.  It's not surprising that Transvirtual would take
that position, given that they were trying to develop and sell a
proprietary version of Kaffe in competition with the GPL'd version.

So, theoretically, Transvirtual could have used their interpretation of
the license to sue somebody that didn't comply (eg. used the VM in an
embedded product with non-GPL'd apps).  It's unclear as to whether or
not their interpretation would have held up in court though.  But it was
an implicit threat.  Transvirtual was shut down about 5 days ago, so I
don't think "the threat" is really a big issue anymore, unless the
people who now control the intellectual property want to make it into an
issue.  I don't even know who the people who control the intellectual
property are now (and I bet they know even less about what Kaffe is).
> For example, what if we had JVM from kaffe (GPLed) but used it with
> gnu classlib (GPL+linking exception clause)? Does it change anything?

In the worst case scenario, everything is GPL'd.  

I'm not going to get upset about anybody running anything on top of
Kaffe.  My view of the world is essentially GPL+(implicit Exception) -
but I think I'd have trouble getting the license switched on Kaffe to
say that.

At this point in time, I don't think anybody is aggressively fighting
for the "pure GPL contaminates everything" point-of-view.  Perhaps if
somebody takes the old Transvirtual code, and tries to resurrect the
basic business model that even Transvirtual abandoned about 2 years ago,
it might still be an issue.  In that case, there are still lots of other
free JVMs to use that don't have the issue.

> I and I think most of us, cc:ed know how GPL works for non-Java stuff.
> Does Java way of working differ the situation somehow?

It's all a matter of interpretation.  A lot of the positions on the "GPL
contaminating Java" issue that were taken in the past were "negotiated"
for between Transvirtual and the FSF, because the FSF was trying to
create some "space" for Transvirtual to try out the business model of
releasing code under the GPL, while having a proprietary version they
could relicense for money.

That business model basically failed, and the FSF is now pushing
GPL+Exception.  I think GPL+Exception is the way to go, as the GPL can
be interpreted quite fuzzily, and the added clarification helps.

> For now Kaffe technically _may_ be the key to get _A LOT_ of Java stuff
> from contrib to main. That's why clearing this out is so important.
> Please elaborate.

I personally take the position that Kaffe's GPL licensing does not
"contaminate" across the interpreter-application boundary.  So you
should be able to use it anywhere you'd normally use Sun's JVM.  If you
need some more clarification, I'd be willing to work with you and
debian-legal to ask for an interpretation from the FSF's lawyer.


 - Jim

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