[kaffe] GPLv3

Dalibor Topic robilad at kaffe.org
Tue Jan 17 15:51:45 PST 2006

On Tue, Jan 17, 2006 at 10:11:12AM -0800, Jim Pick wrote:
> Ok,
> Licensing threads bug me, but the discussion is going to happen anyways.
> The first draft of the GPLv3 is out...
>  http://gplv3.fsf.org/
> What do people think?
> I only glanced at it, but there are some things I like.

Same here.

> I think it really helps clear up the FUD (fear-uncertainty-doubt) that 
> claims that a GPL'd virtual machine like Kaffe would only be allowed to 
> run GPL'd Java applications.
> Here's the specific language from the exception clause:
>  As a special exception, the Complete Corresponding Source Code need
>  not include a particular subunit if (a) the identical subunit is
>  normally included as an adjunct in the distribution of either a major
>  essential component (kernel, window system, and so on) of the
>  operating system on which the executable runs or a compiler used to
>  produce the executable or an object code interpreter used to run it,
>  and (b) the subunit (aside from possible incidental extensions) serves
>  only to enable use of the work with that system component or compiler
>  or interpreter, or to implement a widely used or standard interface,
>  the implementation of which requires no patent license not already
>  generally available for software under this License.

Probably. I'll wait to see how the final language looks like, since this
is just a first draft. Not that there was any indication of the FSF
actually interpreting the GPL2 differently from us in practice,
judging by FSF's FAQs. I had an opportunity to talk with FSF's GPL 
compliance officer last year about it, and switching to GNU Classpath
has removed a lot of doubt in that area for people unfamiliar with the

Given that most GNU Classpath runtimes are GPLd, and noone has been
attacked for being GPLd save from Kaffe, I'd write that off as a honest 
error in judgement on the side of the the folks peddling in that legal 
theory. Mistakes happen, most hackers aren't lawyers. No need to attribute
malice where other explanations are more plausible, etc. :)

> I understand that the license is supposed to be anti-DRM as well.  I 
> imagine this where the real battle is going to be.  The legal language 
> which prevents the code from being used in systems that use DRM is 
> pretty broad, I think.  I can see people who want to use GPLv3 stuff in 
> closed systems are going to have a lot of room to play games.  I can see 
> a lot of legal activity arising out of this, which is something that the 
> GPLv2 hasn't really been afflicted with.   Again, I didn't read it very 
> carefully.

I'd wait to see how that section works out in a year. 

> There is also some language about patents.

Yes. The interesting part is that the new language would make GPLv3-rc1
compatible with the Apache license and the Eclipse license, so we could 
merge in code covered under those licenses.

> Kaffe is currently under the GPLv2.  As I understand it, we can opt to 
> upgrade our license to GPLv3.  Or we could stick with GPLv2.
> If we upgrade to GPLv3, old versions will still be available to people 
> that can't handle the new license terms.
> If we stick with GPLv2, other people could take that, and apply the 
> GPLv3 license to it.

Yes. But I don't see that as an interesting item to discuss as long as
the GPL is stil in the drafting stage. A lot of the text can still
change until next year, and I'd prefer to wait until the text is
finalized before we go over the pros and cons. From my casual reading of
the draft, it looks fairly nice, though it's way too long (200 words
should be enough for a free software license :) but I did not take my 
time to comb through it.

> I wonder what the Debian legal folks think about the new license?

It's too early to tell, since it is still a draft. There were positive
voices, and people noting some things they didn't like. In general,
everyone is happy that it's not as bad they feared it would be, given
Debian's and FSF's opposing opinions on the freeness of GFDL (invariant
sections, and all that).

> At this point, I think I'm leaning towards using GPLv3, because it helps 
> de-FUD Kaffe a bit.

I think the language has been improved in several parts, though I am not
very happy about the whole new 'adjunct unit' stuff, which sounds way too
close to classical legalese for me to feel comfortable with it, not
being a native speaker and all that. But it's a draft, it will probably
be fixed, rewritten, and re-written again until next January. That's
what drafts are for. :)

As for de-FUD-ing Kaffe's license, I could write a brief FAQ.legal 
explaining how the GPL works, how it's being interpreted by the FSF, 
and sending people with further questions over to the FSF. The GPLd
GNU CLISP project has something I could adapt, I believe. But I am not
sure if its necessary to put much work into it, since Kaffe seems to be 
progressing fine without a need for such a document. :)

dalibor topic

> On the other hand, I can imagine that the GPLv3 will create big 
> headaches for companies like my present employer (whom I'm still 
> employed with until mid-March).  They make a settop box for cable 
> companies, which completely locks down the content on the box.  If the 
> anti-DRM measures are effective, and things like the Linux kernel, 
> glibc, coreutils, busybox, etc. go GPLv3, they might have to get their 
> OS code somewhere else.  Most consumer electronics companies building 
> embedded products are in the same boat, I imagine.
> Cheers,
> - Jim
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