Challenge with ABCL on a commercial project: Licensing

Alan Ruttenberg alanruttenberg at
Sun Aug 9 17:44:11 UTC 2020

I'll offer my own view, with complete respect for the view Ville promotes.
In my case, when I worked for Science Commons, we chose to license software
using BSD because in our view getting the ideas out to the widest audience
was the biggest win. The situation with ABCL is different in a couple of
ways that do matter. In our case we were promoting new semweb tech, and we
were not working with a code base with a long lineage of contributors who
had participated under the premise of ABCL's license choice. As Ville's
view exemplifies, it woild be difficult, at this point, to relicense ABCL.

Still, I believe the goal of wide dissemination and use is part of the
ethos, so I would search for a way to somehow make it possible to use the
project. To that end I have a few suggestions. 1) To the extent that the
testing of the classpath clause is an unknown, perhaps we (ABCL's
developers) could offer a memorandum of understanding that clarifies that
we will not initiate legal action if the provisions of the license are
followed, regardless of future legal developments. 2) Steve, you could
budget at least a relatively small sum of money for support of the project.
There is a fund that Mark set up to which I have and will continue to
contribute. 3) I have had a decent amount of experience (despite that
IANAL) with talking with legal and business types about use of free
software, and successfully lobbied a pharmaceutical company I work with to
both use GPL software and subsequently release software I wrote while
working there, when I left the company. If you would like to contact me
privately we can discuss the specifics of your situation and ways you might
approach gaining consent to use ABCL under it's current license.


On Sunday, August 9, 2020, Ville Voutilainen <ville.voutilainen at>
> On Sun, 9 Aug 2020 at 11:59, Mark Evenson <evenson at> wrote:
>> Describing my offer to be willing consider relicensing ABCL with proper
>> financial and legal support for the work it would entail is hardly
“cold”.  If
>> you derive commercial value from something, you should be prepared to
>> in the externality costs involved in the creating the financial value
you seek
>> to extract.
> Greetings. My contributions to ABCL are not up for relicensing to
> bsd/mit/apache; they were written
> under the expectation that ABCL is and will remain GPL.
> Thank you, and have a nice day.
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