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The consequences of avoiding GPL

The consequences of avoiding GPL

Posted Aug 17, 2010 18:33 UTC (Tue) by jejb (subscriber, #6654)
Parent article: A very grumpy editor's thoughts on Oracle

One of the things missing from this excellent analysis is how it is related to Google's choices in producing the Android platform. A specific choice they made was avoidance of the GPL wherever possible and containment of the components (like the kernel, bluez and dbus) where that wasn't possible. With the origin in Project Harmony (the Apache one) and the deliberate writing of additions to harmony under ASL, coupled with the avoidance of the GPL licensed JVM reference, Google deliberately created a thing which was explicitly not derived from the Sun/Oracle JVM reference platform.

Now, however, that choice is revealed as counter productive in this instance: if dalvik had been based on the JVM reference platform (and thus become licensed under GPL itself), it would have been a derived work of the Sun/Oracle reference platform and would be subject to the GPL implicit patent grant. Oracle could not have sued Google without causing the termination of distribution rights for the entire JVM derived system (for everyone) and thus making a direct attack on a key pillar of the open source ecosystem. I think even Larry Ellison would hesitate before going down that path ...


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The consequences of avoiding GPL

Posted Aug 17, 2010 20:40 UTC (Tue) by jonabbey (guest, #2736) [Link]

Sun doesn't permit the patent license to go to people who build out distributions of JavaSE without including all classes specified under java.* and javax.*.

This means Android would have had to have shipped Swing and AWT, for instance, along with CORBA, Java RMI, and so on.

That's not viable for a mobile phone, even today. That's why Sun could charge for JavaME.. they had stuffed mobile killers into the java.* and javax.* package hierarchies.

The consequences of avoiding GPL

Posted Aug 17, 2010 20:57 UTC (Tue) by jejb (subscriber, #6654) [Link]

> Sun doesn't permit the patent license to go to people who build out
> distributions of JavaSE without including all classes specified under
> java.* and javax.*.

Sun was on very dicey legal ground here: GPL doesn't permit the enforcement of additional restrictions via patents (this is what the implicit patent grant is all about). Section 7 (of GPLv2) is very clear what happens when you take enforcement actions on this: the licence terminates and the software becomes undistributable ... for everyone. Sun, since it sat outside of the GPL ecosystem,might have been able to weather this consequence but Oracle is a major participant in that ecosystem.

If it came to a court battle on this point over some GPL derivative of Java, I'm pretty sure the entire GPL ecosystem would be lining up behind whoever had been threatened with a patent suit. My point is that this is currently not happening for Google because they chose not to be part of that ecosystem.

Sorry, but you are wrong...

Posted Aug 17, 2010 22:58 UTC (Tue) by khim (subscriber, #9252) [Link]

Section 7 (of GPLv2) is very clear what happens when you take enforcement actions on this: the licence terminates and the software becomes undistributable ... for everyone.

s/for everyone/for everyone except Oracle/... Big difference! Remember copyright assignments? That's why they are there. Sun itself does not need to obey GPL. You'll need to visit courtroom to find out if you actually got the patent license or not and while it's very hard to imagine that court will declare that unmodified version need yet another separate patent license it's not so easy to say what the resolution will be WRT modified version. There are enough loopholes in GPLv2 to make such interpretation plausible and if you are sole owner then you interpretation almost by definition is more plausible then someone who read license once and decided not to ask about clarifications...

If it came to a court battle on this point over some GPL derivative of Java, I'm pretty sure the entire GPL ecosystem would be lining up behind whoever had been threatened with a patent suit. My point is that this is currently not happening for Google because they chose not to be part of that ecosystem.

Funny, my view is 180 degrees different: Google got as much support as TomTom which used GPLed linux kernel. People are searching for prior art, inventing creative ways to overthrow these patents... what Google was unable to get but TomTom got?

The consequences of avoiding GPL

Posted Aug 27, 2010 6:25 UTC (Fri) by rqosa (subscriber, #24136) [Link]

> Section 7 (of GPLv2) is very clear what happens when you take enforcement actions on this: the licence terminates and the software becomes undistributable ... for everyone.

Nothing in section 7 can cause the license to "terminate" (only violations of section 4 can cause that).

It's true that, according to section 7, the target of said "enforcement action" is no longer allowed to redistribute the software; but that applies only to the target of the "enforcement action", not to "everyone".

What's more, it's not at all clear that just any patent infringement lawsuit is enough to trigger this; only an "enforcement action" which forbids the target from "distribut[ing the software] so as to satisfy [...] [their] obligations under [the GPLv2]" triggers it.

And finally, notice that the GPLv2 itself effectively says that section 7 does nothing at all: "This section is intended to make thoroughly clear what is believed to be a consequence of the rest of this License." (In other words, if you took the GPLv2 and removed section 7, the resulting license text would have exactly the same legal effects as the unmodified GPLv2.)

The consequences of avoiding GPL

Posted Aug 18, 2010 0:42 UTC (Wed) by eou (guest, #69609) [Link]

Uh?

Today phones have gigabytes of storage and >= 512MB RAM, and can certainly ship the full J2SE library.

For that matter, they could also ship full desktop x86 Windows and Linux installations, and run that in qemu-i386 (not that it would provide a great user experience).

Of course, the "full implementation" requirements are totally absurd and ridiculous anyway.


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