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From Leo Simons <m...@leosimons.com>
Subject Re: The Unofficial "Harmony, Licensing, the Universe and everything" FAQ
Date Thu, 17 Nov 2005 15:26:25 GMT
I have been thinking about this and talking to people. I tell you, it all makes
my head hurt.

On Sat, Nov 12, 2005 at 04:26:35PM +0100, Mark Wielaard wrote:
> On Wed, 2005-11-09 at 05:38 -0800, Leo Simons wrote:
> And add: "We do ask that all contributions are also available under
> terms that allow integration into larger works distributed under other
> Free Software licenses such as the (L)GPL to make sure the contribution
> can be shared by the whole community".

I spoke to Cliff about this. My understanding here seems correct -- the patent
reciprocity is important to us and many of our contributors and by dual licensing
we and or contributors open up the possibility of being sued over the patent
mess, so it is unlikely (after all, in the end this is a policy decision) that
the ASF wants to recommend licensing under any license which does not have
similar-strength patent reciprocity clauses.

By their very nature these kinds of patent reciprocity clauses are incompatible
with the GPL v2, eg as long as this policy stands the ASF is not in the business of
distributing software that is legally compatible with software licensed under the

I am not sure about the LGPL situation but I believe it is similar, so we also
don't want to encourage dual-licensing under the LGPL.

> > Q: does or will harmony depend on code licensed under the LGPL?
> > 
> > A: Maybe. The ASF is working on a specific policy for allowing ASF projects to
> >    have optional dependencies on binaries licensed under the LGPL.
> If there is a timetable for this effort then it would be good to mention
> this. I understood it will be discussed during the next ApacheCon.

It was discussed yesterday and will be discussed again at ApacheCon and/or
at another time in December. The direction definitely seems to be towards allowing
optional dependencies (as in one from an alternative for certain functionality)
on LPGL codebases. There is a question outstanding from Cliff to Eben to which
an answer is expected "soonish".

I think the ASF will have a revised policy before the end of the year that will
allow Apache projects to do things such as linking with Hibernate. We also are
likely to have an "official" statement where we say that the LPGL and the AL are
considered to be completely compatible from a legal POV, and hopefully that will
be a joint statement from the ASF and the FSF.

This means that GNU Classpath dual licensing under GPL+Exception and the LPGL or
re-licensing under the LGPL is likely to mean that we can start using GNU Classpath
as one of the possible class library implementations for Harmony before the end
of the year, so that is one thing we should perhaps ask the classpath community
to consider. However, we can also wait with asking that question until the new
policy is "official" to avoid later dissapointment.

Note this would kind-of be a
one-way licensing bridge, eg Classpath would still not be able to incorporate code
developed at harmony into their codebase (much like classpath currently can't take
code licensed only under the GPL since the copyright holders need to agree to that
exception first). Of course, there is never something which would prevent
individuals who contribute stuff to harmony to contribute that same stuff to
classpath and it is explicitly fine for the classpath community to ask for stuff
like that.

> > Q: does or will harmony code depend on GNU Classpath?
> > 
> > A: Maybe. Once the ASF and FSF legal teams settle the LGPL stuff described
> >    above, hopefully more attention will turn to answering whether we can / want
> >    to depend on Classpath (from the legal perspective). (GNU Classpath is
> >    licensed under the GPL but has a special exception:
> > 
> >      http://www.gnu.org/software/classpath/license.html
> > 
> >    ) which may or may not turn out to be acceptable. Even if the exception is
> >    not suitable in its current form the ASF will try to work with the FSF and
> >    the GNU Classpath developers to figure out some kind of workable arrangement.
> Right, I think it is good to emphasize that part. Also again it would be
> good to have a timetable associated with this. I know the ASF board has
> been asked to review and give specific feedback on this, but I haven't
> heard anything on the progress.

I asked Cliff and he wasn't sure of the status either. I read through some of my
email archive about this. Cliff offered to volunteer some time to look at the
current classpath exception statement in detail somewhere in December, however he
also had a better suggestion -- we ask the software freedom lawcenter people for
specific and pointed advice. I'm going to be composing a history-of-the-discussions-
so-far as well as a list of specific questions about what the problem might or
might not be, what the alternatives are and what the "policy implications" of those
alternatives would be, and we're going to get legal counsel to ponder those

The timetable is likely going to be "month and a half for Leo and Cliff to figure
out the right questions", "two months for several lawyers to provide some answers",
and then depending on the answers compatibility may take a lot longer. Cliff
indicated that it might be the case that we will have to wait for GPL v3 and then
even after that a small revision of the apache license might be needed. If so, we
are talking about end-2007 or something like that before harmony could ship software
linked against classpath. I don't know yet, whether that is the case.

> > Q: can I combine the harmony code with code licensed under the GPLv2?
> >    
> > A: we don't know. The ASF considers this issue in "legal limbo" and has no
> >    official statement on the matter other than that. See:
> >    
> >      http://www.apache.org/licenses/GPL-compatibility.html
> >    
> >    Note that the FSF answer currently (November 9, 2005) a solid "no". See
> >    
> >      http://www.fsf.org/licensing/licenses/
> It would be good to know any progress or primary contacts for solving
> this "legal limbo". I know FSF legal has offered a couple of suggestions
> to make the ASLv2 unambiguously GPLv2 compatible, but again I don't know
> who is tracking that issue or what the current status is.

I believe the various "interim" suggestions weren't easily acceptable to either the
FSF or the ASF. Compatibility between the ASL and the GPL license is high up on the
agenda for the design of GPLv3, but that's the timescale we're talking about here.
Don't expect anything soon.

> > Q: can I combine the harmony code with GNU Classpath?
> > 
> > A: we don't know. The GNU Classpath project makes an exception to the GPLv2 (See
> > 
> >     http://www.gnu.org/software/classpath/license.html
> > 
> >    ), but the ASF legal counsel is not confident that this exception fixes the
> >    problem described above.
> Do you have a pointer to specific issues that ASF legal counsel has with
> respect to the exception text?

I hope to have something like that roughly 3 months from now (or no such pointer
and an "ok, go and use it" statement). No promises beyond "will try".

> >    The developers of the GNU Classpath project don't know yet either.
> While the above "legal limbo" distributing a combined ASLv2/GPLv2 code
> base as a larger work isn't clarified it is impossible to include any
> harmony code distributed under the ASLv2 in GNU Classpath. That is why
> we ask all contributors to make sure their contributions also available
> under terms that are GPLv2-compatible like W3C/MIT/X/etc.

Indeed, and understood. The ASF as a foundation that provides a stable legal
umbrella is not going to ask that of contributors, however there is no
issue with others in the harmony community doing exactly this. There is
also no issue with changing our IP clearing framework to allow for a "this
is also MIT licensed" checkbox, we "just" need to make real clear that it is
a contributor's choice to do that and it is not required for participation, that
there are several implications when doing this (like opening up some patent
licensing holes) which the contributor should realize, and this is not the
mode of operation "by default" (the default is that a contribtor provides stuff
under the relevant CCLA/CLA and we license under the Apache License).

Also its going to be very hard to keep MIT-licensed contributions neatly
seperate from the Apache-licensed stuff as our trunk rolls forward -- and if
we have a mix of MIT licensed and apache-licensed stuff then the combined
work is apache-licensed. So it'd be up to whomever wants to integrate stuff
from harmony under a MIT license to track the codebase very closely to figure
out what they can and cannot use -- as a lot of stuff is not going to be
available under the MIT license.

I'm not going to try and figure out how to do all this (I tell you, I'm shit
scared of messing that kind of stuff up) but there also isn't any up-front
"-1" from the ASF legal team or the Harmony PPMC about this kind of change.
The policy and legal framework Geir (well mostly) has been working on are in
SVN for anyone to look at and patches can be considered.

hpff. I hope I got that right. No promises though :-)


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