[jsword-devel] Re: JSword license

Mike Kienenberger jsword-devel@crosswire.org
Sun, 28 Sep 2003 13:49:38 -0400

Joe Walker <joe@eireneh.com> wrote:
> I probably own the copyright to 90%+ of JSword and my personal 
> priorities put helping people to read and understand the Bible above 
> philosophical ideals of software freedom. However even though the answer 
> from me would be "not sure it depends", you would also need to get the 
> agreement of:
> So the long and short is that it is probably too late.

That's what I suspected, but thanks for explaining!

> Maybe it would be easier for me to persuade you to use the GPL for your 

For the reason why this is not possible, read "I am writing free software 
that uses non-free libraries. What legal issues come up if I use the GPL?" 
at http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#WritingFSWithNFLibs and "I'd 
like to modify GPL-covered programs and link them with the portability 
libraries from Money Guzzler Inc. I cannot distribute the source code for 
these libraries, so any user who wanted to change these versions would have 
to obtain those libraries separately. Why doesn't the GPL permit this?" at 

The short answer is that the GPL was designed to prevent using GPL and 
non-source libraries in the same program.  For more on this design goal, see 

However, it wasn't too hard to create a new implementation from scratch that 
is able to fetch specific verses from sword bible data sources.

Using a hex editor, it turned out to be trivial to understand the format of 
the raw text sword data modules.  It was a little more challenging to handle 
the zip compressed modules.  I ended up skimming through rawtxt2z.cpp in the 
sword project to see how a raw file was converted to a zip file to 
understand the file format (I didn't originally understand the purpose of a 
bzs file).  There are still things I don't understand because of my research 
techniques (like why the first verse of a Bible seems to start at verse 3 -- 
probably due to some preamble expectations), but I have something that works 
for my purposes.

Yesterday, I successfully wrote code to perform a verse look-up from both 
the rawtext and zip block compressed formats.   I've tested it against the 
Common and ISV.

As soon as I clean up the code, I'm willing to release it under any of the 
other less-restrictive licenses (probably Apache since that's almost a 
standard for java, and my logging module is org.apache.common.logging).   Is 
there any interest (or opposition) in me posting the results (probably a 
couple of java code files less than 30K) to this mailing list?  Maybe the 
code could even be made available as a non-maintained contrib section in 

I doubt I'm the only person who has an interest in using sword bible data 
(verses) in a way outside of the scope allowed by the GPL license on the 
program code.

On the other hand, I don't want to cause any contention over something as 
unimportant as software licenses, so if there are strong opinions in this 
area, I'll keep quiet and anyone interested can contact me off-line.

Andreas,  thanks for your suggestions as well, but the GPL (at least in 
spirit) is pretty specific about disallowing that kind of interface if you 
distribute both pieces (and possibly even if you don't), and not 
distributing all the pieces really limits the target audience.

Thanks again!


mkienenb at alaska net