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From Mark Wielaard <>
Subject Re: licensing (was: Ant gui tool)
Date Sun, 22 Oct 2000 17:21:32 GMT

On Mon, Oct 23, 2000 at 12:02:48AM +1000, Peter Donald wrote:
> >I have never seen any purely political motivations for deciding if
> >a license was GPL compatible. Code distributed under the MIT X license for
> >example is always distributable together with GPL covered code whoever
> >distributes it. This is not specific to the X consortium.
> Right - but technically speaking this shouldn't be the case. FSF/GNU only
> allow this by considering it a system component (and covered by GPL clause
> 3). However even then you can not distribute X code together with GPL code
> unless it only links against X libraries (that are not specific to a
> particular server implementation).
> X is in a similar situation to Apache - they want it to be free (as in beer
> and as in freedom) but not copyleft. It was for a long time incompatable
> with GPL but GNU did not encourage hackers to compete with it but allowed
> them to cooperate. Eventually to get around the licensing problem (which
> many "GPL" programs violated) they started considering it a system
> component. 
This is not why the MIT X license is GPL compatible.
The MIT X license and (modern BSD licenses without the advertising clause)
are compatible with the GPL because they don't have more restrictions then
the GPL. The reason old BSD (with advertising clause) and the APL (with the
you may not use the words XXX and YYY) are not GPL compatible is because
clause 6 of the GPL says: "... You may not impose any further restrictions
on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein...". Licenses with
less restrictions are by definition compatible with the GPL.
This has nothing to do with the system component (clause 3) exception.

The reason the GNU project didn't play nice with the X consortium was
not because the X license was not GPL compatible but because they were
afraid that the X consortium would make future versions of the software
non-free since the X license allows this to happen. So they urged people
to GPL their X software to prevent this from happening but the X consortium
did not accept GPLed contributions.

And in a way the GNU people were correct because in 1998 the X Consortium
(or Open Group) tried to release their new version of X11R6.4 as non-free
software. But in the end it didn't take the GPL to "save" the X code.
When these plans were announced the free software community responded
immediatly and announced that they would not work with the new X11R6.4
but would just fork the last really free version. In the end X11R6.4
reverted to the old free license.

Today the GNU project even recommends people to play nice with the XFree
people and don't use copyleft for their contributions to the core of the

If you want to know more about this from a GNU perspective read

> [...]
> depends - RMS is very very helpful until he decides he doesn't approve of
> your project ;) It has never occured to me but I have heard horror stories
> and many othre rumors. Many of them have to be wrong but I suspect there is
> a kernel of truth there. He has always helped me thou and always helped
> anyone that I am aware of that wants to release free software. 
That is the strange thing. I have also heard these rumors but from my own
and other peoples experience with him I must conclude that these are just
rumors. Although I can understand that people find it difficult to work
with him because I have met him once in person and it is a lot easier to
exchange emails with him then to dicuss matters in person with him.
And he does seem to want to know every small detail before he will give
a definitive answer. So people with little patience will have a hard time
working together with him.

> oops - soz ;)
> I was possibly getting annoyed. Since I started discussing these issues on
> ant and other lists I have been getting a lot of flames directed at my
> personal mailbox. Many of them can be basically distilled to "You suck !
> RMS/GNU/GPL is god ! You are a fool/liar/idiot !" so I my patience is
> starting to run thin ;)
Thank you Peter. I was a bit afraid that this was going to turn into
a big license flame war. But you are a very nice person. Thank you for
responding to my email. I think I now understand your position much better.
And please ignore any idiots that send you personal flames.

> >Your other emails were very constructive and did offer suggestions on
> >how people could combine GPL and APL. We should try to concentrate on
> >offering people solutions like dual licensing or using a license (such
> >as the MIT X license or modern BSD license) that is compatible with both
> >the APL and GPL.
> Around december I am going to start lobbying the PMC to change the few
> clauses left that cause problems. However even if we can do this 90% (or
> all ???) of the projects use proprietry code - whether that be javamail,
> jndi providers, activation, etc which prevents licensing under GPL.
> Hopefully the projects like xerces/xalan that are "pure" APL will be able
> to be used by GPL projects thou.

Please let me know how I can help you with that. I believe there are people
working on a free javamail implementation, but jndi and activation are big
projects. The greatest barrier will be a free Swing implementation.
But I am sure we will see it in the end. I try to do some work on the
Classpath (now merged with libgcj) project and I am very impressed with
how complete their 1.2 library support is (often more complete then the
kaffe libraries).

> [...]
> It is ridiculous - people use the GPL to "protect themselves" and defend
> the "freedom fighters" but do this by attacking the integrity of GPL. Even
> when they are made aware that they are not complying with GPL they say fuck
> it and continue doing it. 
> So please don't think I am attacking the GPL - I am more attacking the
> people who illogically think it fits all sizes regardless of legalities.
> Many of these projects actually release it under GPL to spite projects like
> apache and block apache sharing code (I know of at least 3 that I suspect
> did this). They also tend to use apache stuff despite that not being GPL
> compatable ! Baah - just frustration I guess ;)
You are right that people that use the GPL should carefully think about
what it means to use that license for their code. And I do believe that it
currently means that you cannot share code which is covered by the APL.
But I also believe that people should be free to choose the license they
want. And sometimes you have to work with GPLed code and have to respect
the wishes of the original authors and not use GPL incompatible code.

I personally work(ed) on the GNUJSP project and it was a real pitty that
we could not share some code with the Apache JServ people at the time.
But since all the authors respected the GPL so much and the Apache JServ
people were not willing to change their license to be GPL compatible
(they respected the APL) we were never able to merge some of the code.
With Paul Siegman I worked on a LGPLed servlet library that we wanted to
merge that with the Tomcat project when Sun released their code. But
when it became clear that GPLed code could never use the Tomcat code
we decided that we didn't want to work on code that didn't play nice
with some of the GPLed projects that were already using our code.
It is a very hard problem that has nothing to do with coding but does
prevent some cooperation (if you play by the rules).

> If it doesn't happen by the end of the year I will probably get off my but
> and do it myself and try to get it approved. At the moment there is a few
> GPL libraries I want to convert to APL but can't because other GPL
> libraries rely on them so you can be sure I will continue to try to get
> apache to make APL GPL compatable ;)

I hope you succeed (see above). But couldn't you just recommend those
projects to use the APL minus the last two clauses (call it the
unrestricted APL :). That would make those projects both GPL and APL

And if you need any help writing that FAQ (from a more GNU perspective :)
please let me know.



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