is a project being
run under the Apache Software Foundation; it is an attempt to create a free
J2EE implementation under the Apache license. As such, it is a direct
competitor to JBoss
commercially-supported project which licenses its code under the Lesser
GPL. The JBoss Group has evidently been sufficiently concerned about
Geronimo to be watching the project and digging through its code repository.
They didn't like what they found; on November 10, the Apache Software
Foundation received a
letter (PDF format)
from JBoss's lawyers alleging that code had been
copied from JBoss into Geronimo.
Copying of code between free software projects is not always a concern;
indeed, the freedom to do so is one of the things that makes free software
great. This copying cannot happen, however, if the two projects do not
have compatible licenses. The JBoss code is licensed under the LGPL;
creating a derived product of that code under the Apache license is not an
action that the LGPL allows. So, if this copying has actually occurred,
and the person contributing the code to Geronimo did not have the right to
do so (by actually owning the copyright on that code, for example), the
JBoss Group may have a real point.
It would have been nice to resolve this issue without bringing in the
lawyers. Even so, the tone of the letter distinguishes the JBoss group
from other companies
which have been claiming that their code was copied. The letter proceeds
on the assumption that any such copying was not done intentionally, and it
provides some actual code examples. The Geronimo project has responded
accordingly; if there is any LGPL code in Geronimo, they don't want it
there and they will take the appropriate steps to get rid of it.
Thus far, however, the Geronimo developers seem unconvinced by the JBoss
Group's claims. An examination
of the examples provided by JBoss suggests that the code in question
may have a right to be there. Indeed, some of it appears to be derived from
other Apache-licensed code which somehow lost its copyright notices on its
way into JBoss. One of the code examples is no longer in the current
Geronimo code base, and has not been for a couple of months.
This is a situation which bears watching. The free software community
truly does not need a legal battle between two of its projects. It does
appear that the right things are being done, however; with luck, this
situation will be resolved in a friendly and professional manner, and
without further involvement of lawyers.
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