Subject: Re: LGPL vs. GPL + Classpath Exception
From: Matthew Flaschen <>
Date: Sun, 10 Jun 2007 22:00:42 -0400

Roger Fujii wrote:
>> I see your point.  You're correct that the exception is poorly written.
> It may be well written depending on what the end goals are.. :)

I think it is clear that the /intention/ was not to make code that calls
Classpath GPL for that reason alone.  Whether the exception expresses
that correctly is more questionable.

>>  However, I would interpret "not derived from or based" (in the
>> definition of "independent") as something like "written without the
>> inclusion or use (besides linking) of GPL code".  For instance, the
>> program may only be written with reference to the Sun API.
> But you have no basis saying this.   It makes absolutely no sense to
> say the GPL has one definition of "derived", and the exception to it
> uses another, completely unwritten definition.

It does when you consider that they were developed separately, and the
exception seems to have been developed with little or no legal advice
(unlike the GPL).

>> I agree this is contrary to the FSF's interpretation of what constitutes
>> derivation under copyright law.
> I also think it's contrary to most people's understanding of a GPLed
> library.

But this isn't a GPLed library.  It's a GPL+Classpath exception-ed library.

> Using your definition, there's no reason to LGPL glibc, as the API for most
> system calls was already defined (granted that there are some glibc
> function that are new, but is irrelevant to the discussion).

There actually /may/ not be, because of the GPL's system library exception.

Since no one wants to rely on that, it is LGPL.

> I think most people would agree on the principle that calling a GPLed library means
that the caller
> must be licensed using GPL for distribution.  Now whether they agree WITH
> the principle is another matter entirely :).

I generally would.  But this isn't a GPL library.

> I only said something because of the original question (what's the
> difference
> between GPL + classpath/LGPL?) and the responses given was in odds with the
> terms of the license, and since this IS a license list, one would hope that
> one would get a proper feel of a license by reading the responses.

One would.  Which is why I think the exception is very poorly written.

The exception may be written completely incorrectly; this is
unfortunate.  But the FSF owns the GNU Classpath copyrights in the
entirety, and they have not interpreted the license the way you fear.  I
don't believe this will change, so you are probably safe in assuming you
can call GNU Classpath without your program needing to be licensed under
the GPL. OpenJDK is a different issue.

Finally, consult a real lawyer if you're concerned.

Matthew Flaschen