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From Leo Simons <m...@leosimons.com>
Subject Re: The Unofficial "Harmony, Licensing, the Universe and everything" FAQ
Date Mon, 14 Nov 2005 10:03:23 GMT

On Sun, Nov 13, 2005 at 10:44:58PM -0800, Neil Macneale wrote:
> I am not clear what it is about the GPL which does not allow someone to 
> package it up and distribute it for use with non-GPL code.

The GPL does not allow restrictions on that non-GPL code which are not in
the GPL. For example if some non-GPL code says "You can only link with this
package if the name of all your sourcefiles includes the word 'wombat'" then
that's a restriction not in the GPL so you cannot create that package and
distribute it.

Obviously the apache license doesn't say anything about wombats (unfortunately,
there is so much to say!). The issue there is much more subtle, and is
documented at the links I provided.

> It seems that 
> there are plenty of parts of the J2SE puzzle already available, 
> regardless of their licenses. What is stopping anyone from putting them 
> all together with their respective licenses and source files, and adding 
> some polish and saying, "Here is a compliant java runtime! Enjoy."???

Besides the above, "java" is a trademark and to be able to use it in a phrase
such as "compliant java" you need to get a license to use it. And that license
you can get from Sun only if you do jump through lots of hoops, like pass the

> It seems that this sort of approach would be the best way to get lots of 
> people, and other projects, involved.
> I'm lawyer-phobic, so anyone who can explain the problem with this in 
> plain English, please do.

In one sentence:

The licenses us lawyer-phobic people use to protect us from all those lawyers
and their silly ideas are so restrictive that the approach you describe might be
disallowed by those same licenses.

By analogy:

We (the ASF) have put up so many thick walls to build our legal fortress that its
kinda hard to just go and work with the neighbours (the FSF).

The analogy works in reverse too (it seems the walls the FSF has designed are
considerably higher).

Its kind-of hard to make sense of the whole legal+java+licensing+patents+open source
picture. I think in the end it comes down to the US legal system just not making a
lot of sense.


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