Friday, November 17, 2006

Open source Java

What Sun's actually done, and what almost no company before them has done, is to bend over backwards to do this right. They've resisted the siren-song of corporate counsel who feel the need to FUD their employer into paying them to invent entirely new legalise, which doesn't interoperate with anyone else's legalise. (My own failure to convince Zawinski that a GPL dual-license was a good thing for Mozilla still smarts; it meant that for the first couple of years of the Mozilla project (until dual-licensing took place, after Zawinski quit), Gnome developers were shut out completely. This experience has perhaps biased me, but to see a major corporate source drop done right is fantastic.)

Further, note that Sun hasn't merely pinned the tail on a politically-correct GPLv2 donkey, they've gone through this in excruciating detail to get it just right. Instead of taking the "obvious" LGPLv2.1 option for the libraries, they've taken note of the existing practice by other open-source Java projects and adopted GPLv2 with "the classpath exception". With respect to the transition period for their own libraries (they hold outright copyrights in the compiler and VM, but the libraries contain encumberances which will take time to remove, so they've not made a library release yet), they've worked with the Software Freedom Law Center to craft a specific exemption that avoids trapping applications atop the standard APIs becoming GPLv2 encumbered when shiped _with_ the open-source Sun VM under GPLv2 and closed Sun libraries.

The legal groundwork that they've done is exemplary; it's really, really impressive. Someone inside Sun has asked some open-source/free-software advocates how it _should_ be done, and then listened very closely to the answer(s).

From Armadillo Reticence

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