How to interpret the Classpath-Exception?

Andrew Haley aph at
Tue Mar 26 09:14:32 UTC 2019

On 3/25/19 2:24 PM, Volker Simonis wrote:

> I really can't understand why most people start to hyperventilate
> over "legal/license" questions on OpenJDK mailing lists. This
> doesn't usually happen even for the most weird technical questions
> and a lot of times people answer to such questions without being
> experts in the corresponding areas or without the ambition of
> providing the ultimate and single authoritative answer.

Well, yes, but...

Partly the problem is that the law can be horribly counter-intuitive,
with a mess of confusing and contradictory precedents. But also there
has emerged a doctrine of interpretation of free software licence
(in)compatibility which is not much questioned and has assumed the
status of a quasi-truth even though most of it has never been
established in law. That's why a real lawyer is required: they know
where the boundary between law and tradition is, and thus they are in
a position to provide a truly useful reply.

> I'm perfectly aware of the fact that providing "legal advice" [2]
> may be subject to certain regulations in various countries. But that
> shouldn't hinder us to "discuss" such topics here.

That sounds like an excellent reason to me.

One other thing: licence questions are often of the form "How can I
get around this licence?" They're not usually expressed in a way that
is so transparent, but that's what they are. The questioner wants to
take advantage of free software but keep their own changes
proprietary, denying their own users the same freedoms they enjoy.
Some people find such questions immoral, even outrageous. Do you
really find that incomprehensible?

> PS: I don't have the intention to start a indefinite, controversial
> discussion so I won't answer to this thread any more. But I'll take
> the liberty of answering to other legal questions on the OpenJDK
> mailing lists in good faith and to the best of my knowledge :)

An uncharitable reader might interpret this paragarph as "I'll say
anything I please but I will refuse to defend it."

Andrew Haley
Java Platform Lead Engineer
Red Hat UK Ltd. <>
EAC8 43EB D3EF DB98 CC77 2FAD A5CD 6035 332F A671

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