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Re: Report from the Debian Java developers meeting at FOSDEM

Hi Grzegorz,

Grzegorz B. Prokopski wrote:
W liście z wto, 02-03-2004, godz. 10:54, Stefan Gybas pisze: [... cutting out all things that I agree with ... ]

- License conflicts with GPL'ed Java interpreters

  Currently Kaffe 1.1.x is the best choice for running Java applications
  in Debian. It is, however, licensed under the GPL so there's been some
  discussion whether Java software which is licensed e.g. under the
  Apache License (version 1.1 or 2.0) can be run with it. The opinion of
  the Free Software Foundation can be found at
  http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#IfInterpreterIsGPL, however
  some developers have a different point of view since Kaffe's core
  classes are just another implementation of the standard Java API.

  The long-term solution to this problem is probably the ongoing merge
  with GNU classpath (http://www.gnu.org/software/classpath/) which is
  licensed under the GPL with a linking exception. In a couple of

Unless I am seriously missing something, this won't change much if
anything, as the Kaffe JVM engine itself still remains under GPL.

Kaffe hasn't fully switched to using GNU Classpath yet, so I'd rather not discuss 'what-if' scenarios. But if Gadek insists on beating a dead horse once more [1], let's play pseudo-lawyers again.

Debian-legal didn't follow the interpretation of GPL of Etienne, another SableVM developer, the last time around, when he was asserting Kaffe being GPLd makes Java applications undistributable. Instead, debain-legal supported my interpretation of GPL. I don't see why they would change their minds this time around, since GNU Classpath is more liberally licensed than Kaffe's old class library.

If we want to think about free java not for "home-only" use, but so
that free JVM could be distributed with variety of software
(GPL-incompatible including, like Apache, Eclipse...) I'd argue that
GPLed JVM is not any vital choice. From any company POV it's just too

GPL is for "home-only" use? I must have missed the announcement :)

dangerous to give some venture capitalists in .jp a gun to sue for
breaking the GPL (and some of us wouldn't do it for moral reasons too).

Pretty much the same situation with the Linux kernel: if you make binary only modules, people who own copyrights in the kernel could sue you. Heck, even SCO could sue you out of the blue. Would you therefore recommend that companies avoid Debian?

I'd rather recommend that companies consult their legal staff about the implications of *any* license, and AFAIK, that's what most companies do.

We also need to get/keep the free JVMs working on all architectures so they move to testing. This is the part where we currently need most help so if porters have a couple of minutes (or should I say hours?) please help us. Just send a mail to the debian-java mailing list.

It might be just me, but I sense Kaffe-centrism here ;-)

Only if 'free JVMs' means Kaffe to you. It doesn't mean that to me, for sure. I prefer the more general term 'free runtimes' anyway. And I'd love to have all of them in testing, for what its worth.

Let's put it another way. In SableVM you get ports for free. I take care
of this, fully. SableVM works on all Debian architectures where libffi
is available [*] (and some non-Debian arches too).

You are a very talented developer, and I'd like to compliment you on your achievements. I'm very pleased to hear that SableVM works on all Debian architectures where libffi is available. Especially since Kaffe has been having a lot of problems, lately.

In fact, since libffi seems to have turned out to be a good choice for portability, *maybe* building kaffe with libffi would help on those platforms that are still broken. After all, the configure option is still in there ;)

What is needed is some help to make sure SableVM works with the program
of your choice on a platform of your choice. SableVM 1.1.0 is out,
packages are in unstable - perfect conditions to start helping.

We are doing that for Kaffe for a while now, and it really helps a lot.

Frankly, I'm very glad to see SableVM is catching up in that area, as well. Hopefully, once all the application you want run well enough on SableVM, we can stop having to go though all these licensing discussions again and again.

We all want to make free java usable and robust. But given that there's
commerically-free Suns Java, we won't get far with not truly freely
usable Java. That's why GNU Classpath is under GPL _with exception_, no?

Just use gcj/gij, then. They have a big company backing them. The FSF is backing them and recommending it as a runtime for java. Gcj is neither an experimental nor a research project. That's why it's the only implementation I would bet my money on to be still kicking up dirt five years from now.

Let me cite RMS from http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/why-not-lgpl.html

"Using the ordinary GPL is not advantageous for every library. There
 are reasons that can make it better to use the Library GPL in certain
 cases. The most common case is when a free library's features are
 readily available for proprietary software through other alternative
 libraries. In that case, the library cannot give free software any
 particular advantage, so it is better to use the Library GPL for that

FSF is free to license their code as they see fit. If you want "truly freely usable" software, you should put it in public domain. I, for one, am quite happy with the compromises on liberty made by the GPL.

PS: As Jim Pick explained at FOSDEM - Kaffe has been GPLed exactly
for this purpose: to prevent its usage with GPL-incompatible software.
I don't think anything changed in GPL interpretation since then.

Sure it did. Transvirtual and the Kaffe core developer team publicly stated in their FAQ on the old kaffe.org website that they consider running commercial applications on kaffe to be ok. I've posted the link to archive.org last time we had this discussion [2]. I can do it again, it it makes you feel better.

Given that Transvirtual and the Kaffe core developer team were the only/major copyright holders on the Kaffe source code, I think their opinion weighs more than FSFs. And given that such a permission has been granted by the copyright holders, it'd be rude to pretend that hasn't happened.

While the Kaffe copyright holders could change their mind, FSF can not be so flexible. So the FSF has to stay with the interpretation they worked out with Transvirtual initially, when Transvirtual thought they could make a business selling java runtimes. After a while Transvirtual realized that the business case was not as solid as they thought, apparently, and changed their mind, as far as I can tell from the website archive.

It's no different than Linux Torvalds saying binary modules are OK, in my opinion. As a copyright holder, he's free to interpret the GPL in his own way. Just like you and the FSF are free to disagree. But remember that only copyright owners can sue for copyright violations.

Anyway, SableVM is a very cool virtual machine. It's as good a choice as any other Classpath using virtual machine, maybe even better, depending on your needs. I'm glad to hear it's progressing so nicely. Keep up the good work!

dalibor topic

[1] My assumption is that as a new stable SableVM release comes out, and the initial excitement is over, SableVM developers try to force me into yet another licensing discussion in order to fish for users/developers. Or maybe because they are bored, I can't tell. SableVM 1.1.0 came out last week, and promptly Etienne attacked Kaffe on debian-java, followed by Grzegorz's attacks yesterday. The Kaffe licensing attacks from last year in October/November seem to have been preceeded by a set of SableVM 1.0.9 test releases.

Note that I said *assumption*. Feel free to make your own judgements.

[2] And the time before that, I believe. And I guess the time before that as well.

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