[jsword-devel] Re: JSword license

Mike Kienenberger jsword-devel@crosswire.org
Mon, 29 Sep 2003 09:12:47 -0400

Joe Walker <joe@eireneh.com> wrote:
> We don't provide source for those libraries, but I suppose we could.
> I need to have another look at the license. I made the assumption that 
> in the question: "I am writing free software that uses non-free ..." The 
> term *free* meant GPL, although that seems not to be correct.

Most of the approved open source licenses (but not all -- see the original 
bsd for example) can be redistributed under GPL by narrowing/restricting the 
terms of the original license.  So they are not "free", but they can be 
"made free."  :-)

> I also remember a number of debates on this list where people told me 
> that the GPL was incompatible with Java and I never got where it came 

Exceptions were added to the GPL so you didn't have to redistribute source 
from the operating system or compiler run-time libraries.  Before that, it 
was incompatible with Java since the java libraries didn't come with source 
and couldn't be redistributed.  And now days, most of the java libraries are 
now open-source, but again, probably not all.

The above is all true to the best of my understanding, but your best bet is 
to read through the GPL license and FAQ.  The key to GPL is to remember that 
the goal is to require that the user has the ability to recompile and modify 
without restriction ANY and ALL parts of the code base, not just the part 
created by the developer.   Practical considerations (like the preference 
for developers not in the GPL camp to use compatible code with less 
restrictive licenses and like the popularity/necessity of "proprietary" 
libaries such as those original java libraries) has led to the exceptions 
which make GPL seem so complicated.

You might be better off asking these questions in a GNU licensing discussion 
group.  I have my own biases about GPL and don't claim a total understanding 
of the nuances, despite having worked on and with GPL'd software for more 
than a decade.