[techtalk] GPL Questions

Cathy James cjames at opensite.com
Thu Nov 11 13:25:23 EST 1999

>some home-brewed Java 1.1 applets and servlet(s?).
>I'm interested in licensing these under the terms of
>the GPL, but I remember hearing somewhere that Java
>is not a "free" language and therefore can't be
>licensed under the GPL.  First, why is Java not a
>"free" language?  Can it be licensed under
>the GPL?  I understand that the GPL has the
>"virus-like" quality that if any part of a GPLed
>program is used in another program, it must also be
>licensed under the GPL.  Is this a correct
>understanding ?  Will this cause a problem since
>we're going to be using a commercial database
>(IBM's DB2) with JDBC?  (i.e. Does it work in reverse
>as well?  Do we need to use a GPLed database or go
>with a different license?)

	Oh, boy.  This is a complex question.  Disclaimer:
I'm a professional software developer, not a lawyer.

	There is no reason why your Java code cannot
be released under the GPL, or any other language you
desire.  What's confusing you is that Sun's implementation
of Java (the JDK and JRE) are licensed under the SCSL, which
is emphatically *not* compatible with the GPL.  Therefore,
you must not take any source code from inside these tools and
incorporate it in a GPL program.  Unless you've taken
apart the Java tools to see how they work, which is unlikely
if you're like most of us :-), this is not an issue.

	However, you can write GPLed Java source code,
compile it with Sun's JDK, and run it under Sun's JDK
or JRE.  This does not violate any licenses.  Just
using the compiler on your code is not an issue, just
as using GCC to compile C or C++ source code does not
force the resulting code into the GPL.

	Sun's refusal to release the JDK source code has
probably slowed down the port to Linux, because it
prevents the Blackdown project (www.blackdown.org)
from operating in bazaar style.  This situation has
spawned the development of Kaffe (www.kaffe.org), a
completely free Java system.  Kaffe isn't *quite* GPL,
but it's darn close; read their license for details.

	You certainly don't need to use a GPL'ed data
base with your code, assuming that you are accessing
the database through regular API's.


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