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The consequences of avoiding GPL

The consequences of avoiding GPL

Posted Aug 17, 2010 20:57 UTC (Tue) by jejb (subscriber, #6654)
In reply to: The consequences of avoiding GPL by jonabbey
Parent article: A very grumpy editor's thoughts on Oracle

> 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.


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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.)


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