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Re: clickthrough license

From: Dalibor Topic
Subject: Re: clickthrough license
Date: Mon, 11 Oct 2004 13:44:26 +0200
User-agent: Mozilla/5.0 (X11; U; Linux i686; en-US; rv:1.6) Gecko/20040413 Debian/1.6-5

David Holmes wrote:

GNU is not Unix, and GNU Classpath is not (the core) Java (library).
We just don't have a cute acronym to express that.

I don't believe that not saying the "Java" word when describing what GNU
Classpath is lets you off the hook here. If nothing else the classes and
API's in the java* namespaces would fall under Sun's copyright.

Now I don't personally believe it would be in Sun's interests to come down
on GNU Classpath and "prosecute" this, rather it would be in Sun's (and the
Java Community's) best interests to have GNU Classpath be conformant with
the spec license and pass the TCK. But I'm concerned that the FSF's politics
on all this might deny the possibility of this ever happening. But that's
not my direct concern.

I get a few mails that ask me how legal Kaffe is a few times a year, so I hope this can serve as a 'no idea, hypothetical question' template for GNU Classpath, too :)

The ambiguousness in Sun's licenses surrounding Java technology is probably intentional, as it allows Sun's legal team to pick the battles they want to fight. The FSF can't do anything about other people's licenses that are designed to be open to interpretation, afaict, and it can't really tell you how the other people will interpret their licenses if you end up in court. Sun's licenses are ulrimately their own to figure out. :)

I guess that most people would agree that conforming to the specs is a great thing, and passing the TCK would be quite neat, too, as then VMs using GNU Classpath could claim to interpret the spec in similar ways as Sun does[1]. But it's not up to GNU Classpath to set the rules here, because GNU Classpath does not have a stake in Java(TM). If and when Sun wants, say, SableVM or Kaffe or gcj or IKVM or any other VM on GNU Classpath to be conformant to their specifications wrt to passing the TCK, they'll make their TCK available under an acceptable[2] license, and then something can (and probably will) be done about it.

FSF's politics have no influence on how Sun licenses their code, afaict. All the FSF can do is to say: 'that's OK', or 'that's not good enough for these reasons'. I'd be very surprised if giving up freedom in exchange for access to a marketing initiative, or for a promise of compatibility/scare of incompatibility ever became part of FSF politics. If Sun makes offers that demand such things, I'd guess that those offers are likely to be politely declined.

But that's OK. It's up to Sun to figure out how to license their code in ways that coincide with their intentions, hopes and fears. I'm sure that they'll find a good way to strike an acceptable balance *eventually*. That might take a few more years.[3] But there is no need to push Sun to hurry up, in my opinion. They'll get there on their own terms, when they are ready. They have enough clever people working for them to figure out what needs to be done, and how to go about it without being constantly whacked from the sidelines to 'open up Java already'.

For a bit of a silver lining, the 1.5 JSR indicates that the TCK may be released under a license that doesn't contaminate everything it touches with the SCSL, but it remains to be seen if that is actually going to be the case.

Till then, it's all 'what-if' speculation. Sun has tolerated[4] clean-room efforts like Kaffe since 1996, without threatening legal action, afaict, so I don't see why they should change their minds now. Sun's developers have recently created a Java vendor interface to make it easier for free runtime developers to plug their VMs into OOo, in order to get OOo to run on free runtimes, and further it's reach. I'm working on it from the Kaffe side. I doubt that would be happening if Sun regarded free runtimes as illegal thieves of their specification. I'd say that Kaffe or SableVM or gcj or IKVM are not threatening Sun's products, they are rather playing in a completely different league, by being free software, and by explicitely *not being* Java(TM).

To recapitulate: Kaffe in not Java(TM). Kaffe is not Pepsi(TM). Kaffe is also not Coca Cola(TM) and definitely not a BigMac(TM). :)

Kaffe is Kaffe. If it works for you, that's cool, if it doesn't let's fix it. But noone should claim that Kaffe is Java(TM), because that's simply not true[5].

dalibor topic

[1] Which only matters if you are dealing in marketing anyway, as then you can slap cute Sun logos on your VM and make certain claims about your VM without fear that Sun's legal team will slap you for abusing their trade marks. But a cute logo doesn't mean that a VM is any good in practice, it just means that the VM vendor decided to 'tap into the power of the brand' and do whatever is required to get the right to slap that logo on their product. :) [2] Which means no ambiguous 'NOTICE FROM SUN MICROSYSTEMS' stunts like the one someone pulled on Geronimo & JOnAS. :) [3] My conservative guess is 2012, as according to X-Files, the world ends then, so why not try to get all the good karma you can get while you can? :) [4] And I can see a address in kaffe's changelogs wrt to bug reports, so I'm sure Sun knew about Kaffe for a loong time. Jonathan Schwartz knows about it, for example, and it doesn't get very much higher up at Sun than Jonathan. I didn't get an impression that he or say, Simon Phipps, or Calvin Austin saw free runtimes as a threat to Sun or Java. I'd consider it more likely that when GNU Classpath covers all of Java 1.6/1.7, Sun will work with the FSF to get it into the JCP process and certified, and may tweak the FSF-incompatible parts of it like they did for the ASF. Cooperation to further Java, rather then whacking each other silly, is obviously in everyone's best interest, so I'd assume that Sun will do the right thing when they are confident about it being the right time to do it, not any sooner. Given that GNU Classpath is still a few years away from covering all of 1.5, now is probably not the right time to put any pressure on Sun, IMHO. [5] And would expose them to rightful attacks from Sun's legal department. They need to go after violators of their trade marks or they stand a chance of losing them.

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