Archive for November 2006
Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer.
I have no idea why, but this question has come up in several different emails to the “license at eclipse.org” mail id this week. Maybe it’s because of Sun’s recent announcement that it was releasing Java under the GPL. The question has been asked in several different ways, but the short version is: “my lawyers tell me that the Eclipse Public License is just the same at the GNU Public License. So the EPL is a viral license, right?“
No it’s not.
First of all, what does the term “viral” mean? The Free Software Foundation folks quite justifiably do not like that pejorative term, but many people use it to refer to the provisions in the GPL which require programs that link to GPL code to in turn be distributed under the GPL. That is not true of the EPL, which expressly allows you to distribute your own code combined with EPL code under your own terms and conditions (subject to the limitations of the EPL etc. etc. etc.).
It is true to say that the EPL is a copyleft license, so in that way it is similar to the GPL. But that doesn’t make it “viral”.
It really depends how you evaluate the attributes of the various licenses, and I’ve personally seen many different ways to do this. In some taxonomies, the “copyleft” attribute and the “viral” attribute are separate. In other taxonomies they are combined. It’s likely reasonable to say that the EPL is “copyleft, non-viral”.
But to claim that the EPL is just like the GPL is going over the top. And to claim that the EPL is viral is just wrong, at least when using the common definition of viral.
So congratulations are clearly in order for Simon Phipps, one of my favourite sparring partners. I’m sure that when he started at Sun to open source Java he had no idea what a long and winding road it would be. I definitely applaud his perseverance.
This was certainly a bold move by Sun, and they deserve kudos for their embrace of the GPL, the world’s most popular free software license. I believe that this will do much to kindle new enthusiasm and adoption of Java.
But what really struck me watching the web conference was Sun’s embrace of a permeable, transparent development process across their software engineering organization. I believe that is just as important as the licensing decision. It seems that the entire software industry is taking the best practices from true open source licensing and development and using them to either create new and interesting platforms or reinvigorating existing ones. Open source licensing and community-based development are clearly the direction the industry is moving for its broadly adopted platforms.
So the first half of my prediction was clearly wrong. I’m looking forward to hearing about the governance model that they will implement. They seemed to saying all the right things today, so let’s keep our fingers crossed.
The party at the “P” last night was good fun. In all the years (almost 30) that I’ve been going to the Prescott, I never knew they had a party room upstairs. We’re going to have to find an excuse to use that again.
Here are a few more articles that I’ve seen on the birthday:
So five years ago today was when the download servers were turned on in the basement of the IBM OTI Labs on Queensview Drive in Ottawa.
It’s been one heck of a ride. I don’t think that anyone could have predicted the success that Eclipse has enjoyed. Thanks go to all of the project leaders and committers on the Eclipse, Equinox, PDE , RCP and JDT projects who made this all possible. Without your original vision, brains and hard work this entire phenomenon would have never happened. For all of you that have been with Eclipse since the beginning, a special thank you for your contributions. I hope you’re enjoying the impact that your software is having on the industry.
Thanks also goes to the Eclipse community. Eclipse has been embraced by so many: open source developers building their projects on Eclipse, the commercial ecosystem which has adopted Eclipse as the safe choice to build their products on, and the millions of developers who use Eclipse for their application development. I am constantly amazed at the energy and enthusiasm that comes from all of you that make up the Eclipse ecosystem. You are what keeps Eclipse the happening place it is.
Looking towards the future, I am excited to see what the next five years will bring. Today I see at Eclipse many very interesting new projects which have a ton of potential. There is a whole new generation of committers and leaders who will help define our future. Eclipse’s origins may be with our eponymous Java IDE, but the future of the community will be areas as varied as device software to SOA, from PHP to Ajax. (Space prevents me from listing all the projects I would love to mention.)
There has been some very nice coverage of the birthday in blogsphere and in the press today. Here’s a sampling:
P.S. So far we have over 1300 signatures on the birthday card. Don’t forget to drop a line there and give your own thanks and Happy Birthday!
This is pretty exciting news. Motorola is going to throw its resources behind ensuring that there is an Apache-licensed Java ME implementation.
And how’s this for a quote from Mark VandenBrink:
We see industry fragmentation and proprietary software models as an obstacle to unharnessing the full power of innovation in the mobile Java ecosystem. We believe developers, customers, partners and the industry at large will benefit from a new open source model…”
One obvious question which is not explicitly answered by the press release is whether Motorola is going to contribute directly to Apache Harmony. I certainly hope so, as that would be the most obvious way to move forward. Harmony already has a functioning community and project, and setting those up are non-trivial exercises. Like I’ve said before, “…emulating Apache would just be dumb. Don’t emulate it. If you like their approach, just open source Java at Apache.“
Life in the Java world could get very exciting if we end up with a Sun-controlled Java implementation under the CDDL and a diverse community working on Harmony. Compared to where we were a year ago, that sounds like a major improvement.