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Re: EASTERBROOK's "quick look" on the GPL and Wallace's claim

From: Alexander Terekhov
Subject: Re: EASTERBROOK's "quick look" on the GPL and Wallace's claim
Date: Tue, 14 Nov 2006 11:37:25 +0100

Alexander Terekhov wrote:
> > > I've addressed Windows already. As for Java...
> > >
> > >
> >
> >
> > (Sun releases Java under GPL licence ... A kick in the teeth
> It's not GPL-pure but rather "GNU Classpath::License" (GPL with
> "linking exception").
> And according to
> RMS will appear on a live web cast with Sun CEO Johnathan Schwartz
> and software chief Rich Green. (Will teach them not to use "open
> source" and always add Guh-NÜ-slash or Guh-NÜ-plus before Linux.)
> Can't wait.

What are disappointment. RMS and Eben renegaded to promo video clips.

Ah well.


Sun was more afraid that rivals like IBM would mix Java with their 
own proprietary products than that businesses would shy away from 
Java because of the GPL's viral nature.

That makes the announcement a key turning point. Sun, a big company 
dedicated to increasing its revenue and profits, chose the GPL for 
a key asset, citing its business advantages.

This is something that advocates have been pointing out for some time, 
the idea that the viral nature of the GPL is a protection for 
intellectual property, because it places licensees under an obligation 
to release their enhancements. Now Sun has bought the concept.

So, is the argument over?

And two nice comments from groklaw's visitors

[Disclaimer; I do a lot of Apache work in my free time, but on Ant, 
not Harmony]

1. Harmony can do things the GPL wont let, like be embedded without 
being open source. There is still value for some parties.

2. Intel are one of the big backers of Harmony. Because they want a 
high performance JVM out of Sun's control.

3. A lot of Sun's JVM source is legacy nightmare. The build process 
is, bits of the windowing system come from the Unix common desktop 
environment, the test framework needs to be worked by hand. Its not 
designed for open source use. Remember Ant came when Sun were open 
sourcing Tomcat; what they had before was all makefiles and a mess 
on windows.

4. Sun's JVM already has Apache code in. Xerces and Xalan are the 
XML engine in particular. Harmony shares the same code.

5. Both systems have to run against the java test kit, the TCK. This 
defines 'javaness', and has to be passed to get access to Sun's JVM 
patents. Harmony will probably be an OSS distro that passes these 
tests before J2SE is OSS.

This doesnt mean that Sun's move isn't wonderful, its just
its probably as much of a low

What may have been missed in the noise of the Java-GPL celebration is 
the fact that Sun made its own sellout pact with Microsoft only a 
couple of years ago. Part of that pact was a "patent covenant 
not-a-licence" agreement appearing very similar to Novell-Microsoft 
(with the exception that it is not stated to cover the parties' 
customers - although it may in fact do so).

To quote the sun press at the time:

    Patents and Intellectual Property: The parties have agreed to a 
broad covenant not to sue with respect to all past patent infringement 
claims they may have against each other. The agreement also provides 
for potential future extensions of this type of covenant. The two 
companies have also agreed to embark on negotiations for a patent 
cross-license agreement between them. 

In common with the Novell case, we have no public information on 
exactly which patents and products are at issue and there is no 
published provision for passing the covenant on to downstream 
recipients (as many are currently arguing is required under the GPL). 
There is no information (that I can find to date) on this covenant in 
the information on GPL Java

The GPL issues regarding patent covenants-not-to-sue would not have 
been raised at the time of the Sun deal because there was no GPL 
software at issue - but now there is: Java.

I have no doubt that Sun's motives are entirely honest in GPLing Java, 
however that does not mean that Microsoft may not be left holding the 
same patent trap as they claim to hold from the Novell agreement - as 
a result of the earlier Sun covenant.

For some time now, various free-Java-replacement projects have attempted 
to provide an alternative for those free-software developers who could 
not accept Sun's previous licence. It is now likely that these projects 
will wither and die and become increasingly further behind Java itself. 
It is also likely that free software projects will become increasingly 
dependent on a full Java implementation - now that there is a free one 
available. This means that should MS wait a while before springing the 
patent trap, the alternative Java projects will be dead or no longer 
relevant/capable. The free software backup plan will be gone.

For these reasons I believe it is important (whilst not wishing to 
detract from celebrations of Suns decision) that the Sun-MS patent 
covenant is subject to the same examination (reported to be in progress) 
as the Novell-MS covenant to determine the full nature of the patent 
threat and any GPL-compatibility problems in both cases. 

He he.


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