How to interpret the Classpath-Exception?

Florian Weimer fw at
Tue Mar 26 09:22:11 UTC 2019

* Andrew Haley:

> 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.

On the other hand, I don't think it takes a lawyer to observe that the
Hotspot source files do not include the classpath exception.  Maybe
that observation alone makes Clemens' questions moot.

> 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?

Well, in the context of OpenJDK, we do not have symmetric licensing
anyway, so it's not entirely clear what's morally acceptable and what
is reprehensible.  (For projects with symmetric licensing, I would
agree that it is problematic.)

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