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GPL 3 Forking Risks Discussed 356

Posted by Hemos
from the much-thunder-and-lightning dept.
sebFlyte writes ""I fear a lot of unpleasant forking action when the GPLv3 comes out." The words of Debian maintainer Matthew Palmer. ZDNet has an interesting look at the possibility of forking when GPLv3 emerges, with lots of reassurance from Eben Moglen (the FSF's chief lawyer)."
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GPL 3 Forking Risks Discussed

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  • Whew (Score:5, Funny)

    by Captain Nick (741204) on Friday March 25, 2005 @05:04AM (#12044408) Homepage
    At least they aren't GPL spooning.
  • by azmaveth (302274) on Friday March 25, 2005 @05:09AM (#12044418) Homepage
    TERMS AND CONDITIONS FOR COPYING, DISTRIBUTION AND MODIFICATION

    9. The Free Software Foundation may publish revised and/or new versions of the General Public License from time to time. Such new versions will be similar in spirit to the present version, but may differ in detail to address new problems or concerns.

    Each version is given a distinguishing version number. If the Program specifies a version number of this License which applies to it and "any later version", you have the option of following the terms and conditions either of that version or of any later version published by the Free Software Foundation. If the Program does not specify a version number of this License, you may choose any version ever published by the Free Software Foundation.
    • by Fruny (194844) on Friday March 25, 2005 @05:16AM (#12044433)
      Also note that the only valid version of the GPL as far as the kernel is concerned is _this_ particular version of the license (ie v2, not v2.2 or v3.x or whatever), unless explicitly otherwise stated.
      • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 25, 2005 @05:23AM (#12044451)
        That means there will be no GPL v3 as far as Linux is concerned. Linus et al won't get every contributor to the table to agree to a license change. Without that happening, the kernel will have to remain under GPL v2 only. The relicensing of the Mozilla codebase (to the MPL/LGPL/GPL trilicense) has been a tedious process for the Mozilla project, and that is a considerably younger and smaller codebase.
        • If there is a will there is a way, we just have to wait and see.
        • by Stephen Samuel (106962) <samuel AT bcgreen DOT com> on Friday March 25, 2005 @05:50AM (#12044542) Homepage Journal
          I would expect that the GPL version 3 will be backwards compatible with GPL Version 2. As such some parts of Linux may remain under the GPL2 while others are updated to GPL 3 as they are maintained.

          Making GPL2 and GPL3 incompatible with each other is the kind of thing I'd expect Microsoft to do.

          • Not that easy (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 25, 2005 @05:59AM (#12044574)
            If GPL3 mentions anything that is not in GPL2 (ie it places restrictions relating to patent litigation etc) then it cannot be compatible with GPL2.

            The only thing the GPL3 can do and still be compatible with GPL2 is to have fewer restrictions. In which case, what's the point, we already have BSD.
            • The only thing the GPL3 can do and still be compatible with GPL2 is to have fewer restrictions. In which case, what's the point, we already have BSD.

              BSD is not copylefted.

            • Re:Not that easy (Score:3, Interesting)

              by mrwiggly (34597)
              If GPL3 mentions anything that is not in GPL2 (ie it places restrictions relating to patent litigation etc) then it cannot be compatible with GPL2.

              And who says that v3 has to be backward compatible?

              Backward compatibility is very useful for API's, but not desireable for a FOSS license that has a loophole that needs to be closed (ie: the application server loophole)

          • I would expect that the GPL version 3 will be backwards compatible with GPL Version 2.

            Although there will be top legal minds writing GPLv3, that compatibility is likely to be impossible. I haven't seen a draft of GPLv3 yet, but I know that one focus is to enable users of software to get access to the source, even if they don't have access to the binaries.

            Such a restriction (something like "you must offer the users of the software a copy of the source, or the same offer you got") would be constitute a "f
            • by ShieldW0lf (601553) on Friday March 25, 2005 @06:48AM (#12044709) Journal
              I haven't seen a draft of GPLv3 yet, but I know that one focus is to enable users of software to get access to the source, even if they don't have access to the binaries.

              That would be pretty stupid. Being forced to distribute source if you elect to distribute the binary is one thing. Being forced to distribute ANYTHING when you are just USING the software, however, is too ornerous to be tolerated. I would actively look for a GPLV2 fork of the code or use a closed source alternative before I would accept a license like that. And I sure as hell wouldn't recommend it to any of my clients.
              • acces to souce. (Score:4, Interesting)

                by leuk_he (194174) on Friday March 25, 2005 @07:17AM (#12044766) Homepage Journal
                That would be pretty stupid.

                Imagine a embedded device running linux. You can use it but the distibuter gives you no updated "firmware" and thus no binaries. The only way to find out it runs linux is to "hack" it.

                This might a way builders of embedded hardware try to circomvent the GPL since they give you no access to the binaries. (This is the way the embeded hardware builder would explain it, this is open to discussion. )

                Now comes the strange part: give out firmware updates would violate the GPL. now lets talk about stupid.
                • Imagine a embedded device running linux. You can use it but the distibuter gives you no updated "firmware" and thus no binaries. The only way to find out it runs linux is to "hack" it.

                  Come on this is just getting really stupid.

                  If they have box running the firmwire, they have the binaries. Because the firmware is the binary. You can't run the software without the binaries.
                  • If they have box running the firmwire, they have the binaries.

                    GPL v2 only speaks about:"object code or executable" . Do you have the executable if you use a washing machine running linux? do you have the executable if you access a device of the LAn, do you have a executable if you run an application on a gpl webserver? Where exactly is the limit? (Note: shis is a real problem with gpl libraries.) The gpl is not clear about this, and a vendor will explain it his way. Do you want to sue a chinese vendor o
        • Exactly. It is highly unlikely that the Linux kernel will ever fully be licensed under the GPL v3. At least, not until all the old code under v2 is replaced by newer code.

          The majority of the article, however, is talking about the forking of individual software projects. Some developers might prefer the new license and submit code that is only GPL v3. Some might prefer the old license and continue to use GPL v2. This is where the forking could occur.

          The funny thing is that the reason to switch exclusively
        • "Linus et al won't get every contributor to the table to agree to a license change."

          He does not have to. The GPL technically does not really require forks to license under the GPL, just to provide compatible terms. That means Linus can download the code from kernel.org under the GPL and then relicense under the compatible GPL v.3 plus mods.
      • Also note that the only valid version of the GPL as far as the kernel is concerned is _this_ particular version of the license

        Does anyone know why Linus made this, at first glance, boneheaded decision?

        What rights did he think the FSF were likely to give away in later versions of the GPL that he had to hold on to? It's hardly likely that RMS would have a deathbed convertion and make v20 of the GPL a BSD style licence.

        • It's hardly likely that RMS would have a deathbed convertion and make v20 of the GPL a BSD style licence.

          It is unlikely yet possible. To exclude any uncertainty Linus decided to 'lock' the Linux kernel to the GPL version 2 and version 2 alone.

          The terms of the license work now, why won't they still work when GPLv3 is out? It's not as if all kernel developers will suddenly convert to it making their patches incompatible with the kernel.

          • It is unlikely yet possible [that a later version of the GPL would be substantially more free].

            I think the possibility of the FSF giving up politics is far, far smaller than the possibility of some problem being found with a specific version of the GPL.

        • Does anyone know why Linus made this, at first glance, boneheaded decision?

          Probably because he didn't want to give a carte blanch *in case* a later version would be weak or bad in some way. (At least that was the reason I had once to not include the "or later version" option.)

        • He didn't want any risk at all. He thought v2 was good enough and wanted to make it completely impossible that linux could ever become propriety. That's also why he doesn't have contributors assign copyright - makes changing the license much harder.
          • He thought v2 was good enough and wanted to make it completely impossible that linux could ever become propriety.

            No, the `or later' clause can only loosen the conditions of use, so that can't be the reason.

            The problem with tying it to a particular version comes if a bug is found in the licence.

            Imagine if the US courts decided that some clause in the GPL v2 meant that commercial use was not allowed -- and they can if they want, common law system -- the linux kernel would be hobbyist only in the US, whe

            • But again if a hole were found, v2 code would have that hole, so fixing it with a v3 could only reduce the amount of leeway had by other parties.
              • But again if a hole were found, v2 code would have that hole, so fixing it with a v3 could only reduce the amount of leeway had by other parties.

                How? You have certain options under v2. V3 may give you more or fewer options, but you still have the options you had under v2.

                If v2 turned out to have a missplaced comma, meaning you could only use code from Emacs if you have red hair, then you never had the rights we all thought you had, so still v3 will give you mode rights.

                There is no scenario where givin

        • by bluGill (862) on Friday March 25, 2005 @11:35AM (#12046202)

          Many rich people have left behind a foundation of money. Those who end up running the foundation often donate to political causes opposite of the ones the origional guy would have supported.

          Sure today RMS is in charge and will keep the GPL pure. RMS will not live forever, in fact he could be dead now having been hit by a bus on the way to work, and in a few moment the story will make /. Unlikely, but it could happen. Once he is gone who is to say corporate interests won't take over and made a version 4 license that allows unlimited modification and distribution without making any source public. Linux is protected, while everything v2 or latter is not!

          Of coruse Linux is taking the risk that something illegal will be found in the v2 license. That seems unlikely, but laws change all the time.

      • This clause was added in the 2.4.18 version of the file [linux.no] It did not exist prior to that. This seems that this would create a problem. If I submitted my work into the Linux kernel prior to 2.4.18 I would have submitted my work under the generic GPL and applied the license allowing for future versions of the GPL to be used. For Linus to make a blanket change to the licensing would violate the copyright holders intention and would be essentialy a violation of the GPL. Linus may have avoided this by securin
        • You can submit your code under GPLv2 or any later version... the project maintainer chooses to use GPLv2 and *only* GPLv2. That doesn't change the status of your code, only of the project that it is a part of.

          If as seems likely GPLv3 is incompatible with GPLv2 (thereby forcing projects that use it to use it exclusively) the only issue would be submitting GPLv3 code to a GPLv2 only project, which would not be allowed.
    • Mod parent up (Score:5, Insightful)

      by FidelCatsro (861135) <fidelcatsro&gmail,com> on Friday March 25, 2005 @05:20AM (#12044445) Journal
      I doubt we will see any unplesant forking ,The license must evolve just as the software does .
      If we didnt patch the linux kernel and left security holes in it we would have alot of massive problems , the license is like any other code(all be it legal code) bugs will arise and it will need to grow to support new platforms and new inovations .
      Thus the clause in the license that the parent states gives the backwards and forwards compatibility if you want it .
      unplesant forking will rarely occur
      • Did you read the article? Linux itself is licensed exclusively under GPL v2. To change to v3, every copyright holder would have to be contacted and relicense their code. Every other project that does not allow the software to be licensed under future versions of the GPL will have the same problem. This isn't to say that the GPL should stay at v2 forever, it's just pointing out that there are going to be growing pains.
        • Yes , but i dont see where the pains will come from .
          VS 2 and VS 3 will be fully compatible and i know the license allows for duel licensing (ala trolltech)
          So the worst thing to hapen as i see it, will be the code having to be released as GPL2 and GPL3 code at the same time , and i know for a fact they will be compatible license
          Perhaps im missunderstanding the situation , but i see this as a pure storm in the teacup
          • Dual-licensing only works if every person with a copyright interest in the code agrees. In practice, this is extremely difficult unless either the copyright holder doesn't accept outside patches, or requires a transfer of copyright to do so.
            • Re:Mod parent up (Score:3, Informative)

              by FidelCatsro (861135)
              True enough , and witht he kernel that is alot of people ,However I think there will be little problem here .
              As i understand it , the GPL v3 address major issues with international laws which is a benifit to us all , and im sure the kernel developers will see it this way (anyone out there who is a kernel dev please correct me if im wrong)
              The license is problemeatic if people in say Belarus dont have to abide by it and can just take the code for their own .The only problem will be caused if someone is tryin
              • Re:Mod parent up (Score:5, Insightful)

                by Welsh Dwarf (743630) <d@mills-slashdot.guesny@net> on Friday March 25, 2005 @05:57AM (#12044563) Homepage
                The big problem though is that not all kernel devs are still contactable (or even still alive), so there would be a fair amount of rewriting involved in anycase.
                • Would this be so much of a problem , if so then i see that as a major flaw in the GPL v2 , if they are not avaliable to contact then i would move ahead witht he change and if they later contacted me and disagreed it could be removed , if they are dead then IANAL but would the copywright not either drop or pass to a family member
                  • Would this be so much of a problem , if so then i see that as a major flaw in the GPL v2

                    No, it's a flaw in the Linux kernel's use of the GPL v2. It'd be easy to move forward if they had included the "v2 or later" clause, but they didn't. I'm sure there was a reason behind it, but this issue isn't the fault of the GPL itself.
                    • Too true ,The reason it was licensed as GPL 2 explicitly is something i think that requires some investigation , as it may shed some light if this will be a major pain or not.
                      If anyone has any background please don't keep it to yourself
                      I would fathom a guess that it may have had to do witha flaw in GPL vs1 or fears about the changing nature of the GPL license but those are just guess
                  • The recommended way to put your stuff under GPL is "version 2 or any later version published by the free software foundation". It's not a flaw in the FSF setup, it's a flaw in linus' deliberate decision to say v2 only.
          • Re:Mod parent up (Score:4, Informative)

            by natrius (642724) * <[gro.narin] [ta] [narin]> on Friday March 25, 2005 @05:50AM (#12044541) Homepage
            VS 2 and VS 3 will be fully compatible

            I'm not an expert on the GPL, but I don't think this is true. Version 3 of the GPL will add additional restrictions on top of what v2 does. GPL v2 explicitly states that you can't add more restrictions. The only way GPL v3 would be compatible with v2 is if it took away restrictions, which I don't think is the case.
            • Hm i had not though of that , However will the vs 3 add restrictions as such or will they be safegaurds ,or explicit wording to ensure compatibility with international laws as i understand it
              well it would be odd if they made it incompatible
              ((Joke)) unless ofcourse they are trying to crush linux for the glorius rise of HURD((/joke))
            • Version 3 of the GPL will add additional restrictions on top of what v2 does. GPL v2 explicitly states that you can't add more restrictions

              Clause 9 from the GPL 2 text says that you *can* use v2 with a later version of the GPL.

              It may appear that the "no additional restrictions" clause in v2 might come into conflict with clause 9 and a GPL v3 (or later). But in this case I think that clause 9 clearly takes precedence. That appears to be spirit of the license and the intention of clause 9. You would have

          • Re:Mod parent up (Score:4, Interesting)

            by R.Caley (126968) on Friday March 25, 2005 @05:56AM (#12044562)
            Yes , but i dont see where the pains will come from .

            Every compyright holder must agree to a change in licence, no matter how compatable the licences.

            Do you want the job of goiong back through a the history of a major open source project and identifying everyone who made a non trivial contribution to the code, then finding them (all you have is an email address from 10 years ago), confirming it is the right person, getting in touch, getting them to sign a bit of paper, chasing them when they have better things to do, dealing with the heirs of the ones who have died... and doing that under many different legal systems.

            Yes, there will come a point where the remainig small contributions can be deleted and reimplemented, but they you have to do all the testing required to reassure everyone that the new function is at least as stable and secure as the previous one.

            No fun at all.

            • Correct me if im wrong , but is there not a list of kernel developers with contact info .It is good honest Office administration work ;) it would bore the hell out of me but it may be needed.
              Lets just hope we learn from this atleast ,as i would hate to see the same hapen with GPL 4.
              Though the point being , GPL3 only needs to work with GPL 2 , GPL 2 does not have to work with GPL 3 as such , the kernel and other projects could continue on with GPL 2 and new projects could stay with GPL3 and keep the GPL 2 li
              • Is all that information up to date for everyone who has been a developer?

                Is every contribution from a non-developer (eg emailed in pateches) legally signed over to one of the developers?

                Lets just hope we learn from this

                The normal way of licencing under the GPL would be `versionN or later', so any project caught by this now either has a reason, and so will be in the same position next time, or was at some point headed up by an idiot, and we can't avoid that happening again.

                • The KDE team owns the copyright of the code if you send a patch (iirc). This could be worked round in the kernel by some legal bollocks like

                  "This code is released under the GPL3 although may be relicensed by the maintainer of the Linux kernel to any OSI compatible license)"
              • Yes there is a list. I read about it when the SCO BS started going down. It is how they checked for any violating ip initialy.

                This problem may have been made less of an issue then it would seem. I think they have already done some legwork in tracking down alot if not all of the contributors and have current information because of SCO claiming rights to ip in the kernel. I may be wrong on the amount of work done but a simple website with a "send email with your willingness" to area and instructions to to in
                • What is perhaps needed , is a GPL license license , Something to insure that the GPL must assure some basic freedoms and restrictions with the code (IE: copyleft).
                  This is perhaps needed to stop the GNU licenses ever going sour with these clauses
                  Infact i would hope that this already exists
                  • I've thought of something like "this software may be licensed under any license meeting the DFSG provided such a license would not allow the subsequent licensing of the software or any derivative under a license which did not meet the DFSG". Not sure how good that is legally though.
                • The clause of "future versions" makes me worry about someone placing "for non-comercial use only" or somethign simular into the GPLv.20 and having it auto-enacted.

                  Can't happen. Since you have the right to pick the version of the GPL you licence the code under, you must always have at least the rights in the named GPL version. All a later one can do is give you more rights. Eg, if v6 GPL had a no commercial use clause, you could continue to use it commercially under the v5 GPL.

                  The reason for the `or late

        • Re:Mod parent up (Score:5, Interesting)

          by KiloByte (825081) on Friday March 25, 2005 @05:46AM (#12044526)
          Some of the contributors are dead, too, in the non-figurative sense.
          Try to get them to relicense the part they hold the copyright on.

          Linux is the biggest GPLed project, with many thousands of separate copyright holders. The mere code audit would take years, not to mention trying to actually contact them. They are often unreachable, their mail address may be no longer valid, they may use the name Anonymous Chinese Dissident #75483, they may be in a persistent vegetative state, etc etc.

          And the Berne convention forbids you to ignore even a single copyright holder.
          • Ohhh.. I have a doomsday scenario. Let's say one of those dead dudes' brother - who cares nothing about computers and software - gets a phone call from a lawyer saying they need him to grant permission to change the license on his code in the linux kernel. He quickly calls his lawyer who gets in touch with Microsoft and sells the rights to that little bit of the linux kernel to Bill. Now Bill can say "nope, you can't upgrade to GPL v3." Linus has to get someone to strip out the code that Bill now has a
            • Let's say one of those dead dudes' brother ... [snipped] ... sells the rights to that little bit of the linux kernel to Bill.

              OK. And then what?

              Linus has to get someone to strip out the code that Bill now has a claim to

              OK. Shouldn't take long.

              So what else? You mean that's it? That's all? That's your doomsday scenario?

              If you pick a piece of the kernel code at random it's probably a driver, hardly a doomsday scenario. Even if we lucked out and lost a critical component like the scheduler, there are any
              • Uhh.. say it is a driver. Say it's self contained. What about those people who wrote a similar driver by taking the existing one, stripping bits out and adding bits in? I mean every driver looks kinda similar.. Bill's lawyers could easily claim that every driver that "looks like" the one Bill has a claim on is derived from it. If you argue he'll drag your ass into court (not IBM, not some legal fund, YOU) and ask you questions like "so you're tell me you've never read the source code to another driver b
            • by leuk_he (194174)
              Bill could actually revoke Linus' right to distribute the linux kernel!

              It might not be possible to distibute it under gplv3, but that part was licences under gpl v2. and ssince you licenced it under gplv2 it may still be distibuted under point 4:

              4. ......However, parties who have received copies, or rights, from you under this License will not have their licenses terminated so long as such parties remain in full compliance.

              That makes the gpl inrrevokeable.

              Nice thought expriment, but i would liked to
              • Yes, but say if someone was to distribute a GPL v3 linux kernel that contained code which had not been released for GPL v3 distribution, the owner of that code can revoke the right of that person to distribute their code. The rest of the controversial section 4 of the license:

                4. You may not copy, modify, sublicense, or distribute the Program except as expressly provided under this License. Any attempt otherwise to copy, modify, sublicense or distribute the Program is void, and will automatically termina
  • Is it just me... (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Xeth (614132) on Friday March 25, 2005 @05:10AM (#12044419) Journal
    Or is this not the best time for the Open Source community to divide itself (admittedly, there may never be a *good* time for such an action...)? Is the GPL much of a problem in its current incarnation? Like they say, if it ain't broke...
    • by Aadain2001 (684036) on Friday March 25, 2005 @05:15AM (#12044431) Journal
      After reading the article, it seems like those who think there will be a "division" don't really understand the whole of the Linux world. There are MANY licenses in use by the FOSS world right now, and adding a new version (which addresses international copyright laws and patent issues) will not cause Linux to split into multiple camps. If GPLv3 turns out to be bad, then no one will use it and GPLv2 will remain the most used license. In the FOSS world, no one forces you to do anything like use a specific license when you want to use anyone instead (the developer that is, not the end user).
      • by natrius (642724) *
        If GPLv3 turns out to be bad, then no one will use it and GPLv2 will remain the most used license.

        This isn't the issue. Even if GPL v3 is good and lots of people want to move to it, projects that are licensed exclusively under GPL v2 (e.g. the Linux kernel) are going to have trouble moving forward to the new license. There are a lot of copyright holders to contact and agree to the change in order for it to happen. All that people are saying is that lots of forking could happen. Assuming everyone agrees t
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 25, 2005 @05:11AM (#12044426)
    for some forking action, but I never seem to get any.

    Oh yeah, this is slashdot.

  • by Cruithne (658153) on Friday March 25, 2005 @05:15AM (#12044432)
    Has anyone ever encountered any pleasant forking action? This google image search is leading nowhere... perhaps safesearch needs to be off?
  • hmmm (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    site's responsive
    6 comments

    oh no its the rapture

    hello ...
    can anybody hear me?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Friday March 25, 2005 @05:21AM (#12044448)
    Since the majority of GPL-ed code (with Linux kernel being the most notable exception) is licensed under "GPL v2.0 or (at your option) any later version", wouldn't it be theoretically possible for FSF to publish, for example, GPL v10 saying "You can use and modify this software without any restriction whatsoever, but only if you are Microsoft (Sun, Google, whatever)"? In other words, they can effectively sell the rights to close the sources off all GPL-ed Free Software. Of course, Richard M. Stallman wouldn't do this, but, sadly, he will not live forever, and anyway, whole system shouldn't base its existence and safety on one man.
    • http://linux.slashdot.org/comments.pl?sid=143673& c id=12044418 [slashdot.org]
      As this poster states , the clause in the license allows us to avoid any situation such as this and secures the copyleft .
      However if said did hapen (which i strongly doubt) the only thing to occur would be the license would become more BSD license like allowing people to use the code with your supposed vs 10 for closed source projects
    • by azmaveth (302274) on Friday March 25, 2005 @05:32AM (#12044481) Homepage
      Yes, the GPL could be changed in the future this way. No, it wouldn't effectively "sell the rights to close the sources" as you can still choose to use the earlier version of the license. You are not forced into using a later version - it is left as an option.
      • No, it wouldn't effectively "sell the rights to close the sources" as you can still choose to use the earlier version of the license.

        You can never sell the rights to close the sources without reassigning copyright.

        If the GPL was changed like the grandparent poster suggests, as long as someone has a copy of the code out there that says "GPL v2 or later", they can use the code under the terms of the GPL v10, which can say whatever the FSF wants it to say. That's the whole reason behind why some people re
      • by m50d (797211) on Friday March 25, 2005 @07:31AM (#12044802) Homepage Journal
        No, but if program foo says "version 2 or later at your option", then Steve Ballmer licenses a copy under v10 to Bill Gates who then can make a derivative of foo called foobar and sell it without giving users the sources.
    • No, the FSF can't modify the GPL whatever way it wants. Read the GPL:

      9. The Free Software Foundation may publish revised and/or new versions of the General Public License from time to time. Such new versions will be similar in spirit to the present version, but may differ in detail to address new problems or concerns.
    • No, because the GPL says future versions will be "similar in spirit". The FSF publishing a license like that would invalidate the GPL so no-one but the copyright holder would be able to distribute GPLed code at all. It would cause a mess, but it wouldn't let you close the source.
  • I wouldn't trust RMS (Score:3, Interesting)

    by iamacat (583406) on Friday March 25, 2005 @05:23AM (#12044452)
    He has a particular purpose in mind, which is forcing everyone to release source to their software. Personally, I have a different goal - releasing my pet projects for free while making sure any commercial users will talk to me and negotiate attribution, compensation and so on. GPL V2 seams Ok for that, but I will never put an "... or later" clause. Maybe eventually FSF will prevent me from using my own code in commercial products or something. I am not sure intellectual property laws are beneficial (at all or beyond say 5 year duration), but even if people are allowed to copy binaries, I sure shouldn't be forced to give up my source.

    Given that Linus/many Linux developers seem to have somewhat different goals than RMS as well, it would indeed make sense for Linux developers to fork the license. It's time for something that follows pragmatic wishes of most free software developers rather than one person's political agenda.
    • by latroM (652152) on Friday March 25, 2005 @05:32AM (#12044480) Homepage Journal
      ...Maybe eventually FSF will prevent me from using my own code in commercial products or something.

      They can't do that. If you have written the code you can do whatever you wish with it. GPL allows you to use the software under it commercially.

      It's time for something that follows pragmatic wishes of most free software developers rather than one person's political agenda.

      I don't know about you but I value my freedom with free software. The pragmatical POW is too narrow.
    • Misunderstandings (Score:5, Informative)

      by bonniot (633930) on Friday March 25, 2005 @05:37AM (#12044500) Homepage Journal
      I will never put an "... or later" clause. Maybe eventually FSF will prevent me from using my own code in commercial products or something.
      I think you have two misunderstandings:
      1. As the copyright holder, you can always decide to release your code under another license.
      2. The "or later" clause is at your option, "you" being the licensee. This means that that clause can only grant new rights, not remove rights, since anybody can always decide to chose to see the software as licensed under GPL v2. This is similar to dual licensing.
      Both points mean that your fears are not founded.
      • by Minna Kirai (624281) on Friday March 25, 2005 @05:55AM (#12044558)
        The "or later" clause is at your option, "you" being the licensee. This means that that clause can only grant new rights, not remove rights, since anybody can always decide to chose to see the software as licensed under GPL v2. This is similar to dual licensing.

        Yes, but anyone who exercises that option may possibly find himself in the sad position of seeing commericial projects modify and re-release her code, without giving source OR compensation.

        The "or later" clause gives RMS (or whoever takes over the FSF someday) the option to do ANYTHING with any code released with GPL version X "or later". It sounds a little insane, but we should remember that Microsoft has enough dollars to buy almost anything, included the FSF!
      • # As the copyright holder, you can always decide to release your code under another license.

        But the code under GPLv2, GPLv3, etcetera will still be out there.

        # The "or later" clause is at your option, "you" being the licensee. This means that that clause can only grant new rights, not remove rights, since anybody can always decide to chose to see the software as licensed under GPL v2. This is similar to dual licensing.

        The issue isn't whether anyone can see the software as licensed under GPLv2, but whe
    • For slightly different reasons than you state I would not add a "or later" clause to the copyright notices in my programs. As copyright owner I can allways change the conditions for my open source distribution of my programs. I do trust that the FSF has the well being of Open Source in mind.

      I will certainly read the GPL V3 and consider using it on new projects. (Or use an "this project can be distributed under the terms of the GPL V2 or GPL V3" clause.) Only when I find the text acceptable.

    • by QuantumG (50515)
      if you don't trust RMS then why the fuck are you using his license? Seriously. RMS is the pope of Free Software. When he says X is Free Software and Y isn't, that's it, end of discussion. So if you don't trust RMS, bugger off and use a BSD license or some other license.
      • Re:Wow, (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Minna Kirai (624281) on Friday March 25, 2005 @05:59AM (#12044573)

        if you don't trust RMS then why the fuck are you using his license?


        People change. They can turn greedy and resentful. They may grow old and senile. And inevitably, they will die, and the organizations they lead will be repopulated with other people whose ideas are non-identical.

        Someone's past actions are infinitely more trustable than his future.

        If you trust RMS today, then use the GPL. If you trust RMS and all his succssors in the future forever, certain they can never be bought, bribed, or bludgeoned, then use GPL plus "at your option, any later version"
        • Well firstly, RMS has never changed. He's been the same since the 70s. Even physically, he's like the unaging man. As for the Free Software Foundation, there is absolutely no possibility that it could suddenly change policy, and even if it were to do so, some future version of the GPL which wasn't in the spirit of the current version of the GPL would simply not be valid. There's checks built into the GPL specifically to prevent that.
    • Note that RMS still haven't realized his error where it comes to GFDL. In nearly every reviewer's but the FSF point of view, GFDL is flawed to the point of uselessness, and yet RMS sticks to his standpoint.

      From what I see, people are escaping the leaking GFDL ship like crazy, with FSF manuals and Wikipedia being the biggest bastions.
      The former is governed by RMS, the latter is simply too big to allow relicensing.
    • The GPL states that you can use either the version at the time of release OR a later version. Consequently a user is free to ignore any new versions and continue to use code based on the license it was released under.

      As for authors, are they going to sue themselves for copyright infringement? An author can do whatever they want with their code.

  • by Anonymous Cowdog (154277) on Friday March 25, 2005 @05:24AM (#12044456) Journal
    All this talk about forking is well and good. But what inquiring minds want to know, is will the GPL3 be written in a workmanlike [slashdot.org] writing style.
  • by rescendent (870007) on Friday March 25, 2005 @05:27AM (#12044464) Homepage
    Presumably this is to allow more protection from/for patents and copyrights.

    Most distributions include demo versions of commercial software, software in the public domain and software under other licences.

    Apache is included in most distributions and apache is under the Apache License and apache aren't entirely convinced their licence is compatible with the GPL...

    If Apache can be included, where's the problem?

    Just some early morning thoughts...
  • by ites (600337) on Friday March 25, 2005 @05:28AM (#12044470) Journal
    Remember that the version 2 of the GPL dates from June 1991. It is an incredible document, and I agree with Moglen's assertion that it's the basis of a multi-billion dollar industry. Stallman will go down in history as a visionary.

    But after 14 years, GPL/2 is starting to age. Yes, it addresses current problems, but remember that software written and licensed today must still be protected and viable in 15 years' time.

    There is absolutely no point in postponing the introduction of GPL/3. There must be a migration, and there will be a period of overlap.

    But change is not something to fear in itself. It's something to plan and to manage, and in this case, it's essential.

    Last thing: if you followed the FSF's recommendations as to how to use the license, your code would contain this text:

    # This program is free software; you can redistribute it and/or
    # modify it under the terms of the GNU General Public License as
    # published by the Free Software Foundation; either version 2 of
    # the License, or (at your option) any later version.

    Which all my company's GPL software contains.

    Thanks to Moglen, and the FSF for their fantastic work.
    • The problem is that not all Linux kernel sources are licensed in the way that you have (with the any later version addendum). In fact, not all kernel sources are even under the GPL; here is an example of a file [linux.no] that's under the MPL (Mozilla Public License) and GPLv2 (only). Then there are the files (example provided) [linux.no] that simply state the license as GPLv2 without the "or later".

      In other words, the Linux kernel has many, many copyright holders, and many, many different variations of the license language in
  • by mnmn (145599) on Friday March 25, 2005 @05:52AM (#12044551) Homepage

    So what is in GPL3 thats causing all the commotion? All I hear is people saying they'll do this and that and them saying no we wont, and when its out you wont worry. Does anyone even know what differences will be in GPL3?

    The only change I'd like to see is " this code cannot be used by Microsoft or SCO or its subsidiaries, or employees in any fasion ". Or better "this code cannot be used by GW Bush to kill innocent people in any country under any circumstances whatsoever" or something to that effect.

    Theyre using WindowsNT to drive the battleships anyway.
    • by Cardinal Biggles (6685) on Friday March 25, 2005 @08:46AM (#12045027)
      The only change I'd like to see is " this code cannot be used by Microsoft or SCO or its subsidiaries, or employees in any fasion ". Or better "this code cannot be used by GW Bush to kill innocent people in any country under any circumstances whatsoever" or something to that effect.

      Then the GPL would no longer be an Open Source license, or even a Free Software license.

      See items 5 and 6 of the Open Source Definition [opensource.org] ("No Discrimination Against Persons or Groups", "No Discrimination Against Fields of Endeavor"), or the Free Software Definition [fsf.org] ("you should be free to redistribute copies, either with or without modifications, either gratis or charging a fee for distribution, to anyone anywhere .")

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Forking seems like less of a problem than the simple that Linux simply cannot practically be released under a license other than the GPL v2. Linus established Linux as being licensed specifically under version 2 of the GPL. All contributors to Linux hold the original copyright to the code the contributed. The contributions -- as modifications to code explicitly licensed under only version 2 of the GPL -- are themselves explicitly licensed under only version 2 of the GPL. Even if there were compelling rea
  • by inc_x (589218) on Friday March 25, 2005 @07:38AM (#12044824)
    There are two reasons I only use GPL v2.0 and not any later version:
    1) I don't want to license my software under terms I have never seen or read and over which I do not have any control.
    2) I strongly suspect that the "or any later version" part is not legally enforcable towards the copyright holder because the copyright holder (in this case that's me) had no opportunity to review the terms of a later version when he put that line in and does not have any control over such later version. The clause would be void in most jurisdictions IMHO. (but IANAL)
  • I trust Eben (Score:2, Insightful)

    by sl4shd0rk (755837)
    He's a smart shit. People don't like change - fear it rather. There are some valid concerns about license "portability" but I can't think of anyone else I would rather have sorting it all out.
  • by pgilman (96092) <never@@@ga...in> on Friday March 25, 2005 @08:10AM (#12044919) Journal

    one of two possible scenarios exists here:

    a) this new version of the gpl is going to cause a real problem, and there will be all sorts of forking and license incompatibility issues; or

    b) this is a non-issue, but nevertheless the community now has to deal with clearing up a bunch of misconceptions, muddy water, and FUD.

    either way, it's a problem. why does there even have to *be* a new version of the gpl? didn't they write it properly the first two times? personally, i admire the ethical intent of the gpl, but it's this kind of aggravation that makes the BSD license the only way to go.

  • Vaporware issues.. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by iamsure (66666) on Friday March 25, 2005 @08:53AM (#12045057) Homepage
    If they'd stop talking about what it "will be" and "wont be", and put out a draft, they'd have *constructive* discussions instead of guessing!

    Look, seriously, yes, there are grave concerns, and its a hideously important document. However, there is no reason why they cant put v2 into a wiki, add some proposed changes, and start working with the community on modifications.

    This is at least the 10th story that has discussed A DISCUSSION OF WHAT WILL BE IN THE NEW VERSION!

    Its not even 5 pages long. They've already mentioned the high points of areas they want to improve/change (patents, webservices), and everyone is well informed!

    So just get on with it, and stop playing the vaporware game.

    In the meantime, the only GPL-like license that actually closes the web services loophole (the Affero GPL), which is mentioned as a template for the GPLv3, ISNT GPL compatible!

    It would be nice to have a GPLv2 compatible license that closes that loophole, so I'm waiting anxiously for a look at a license that will do it.

    Enough talk - WRITE!
  • by srmq (123358) on Friday March 25, 2005 @11:45AM (#12046316)
    It would be wonderful (especially in the Java camp) if the new GPL was compatible with the CPL and the Apache 2.0 licenses. Apparently the FSF even agrees somewhat to the additional restrictions that these licenses make (see http://www.gnu.org/licenses/license-list.html ), so it would be nice to address the problem.

    Being able to use Apache code and Eclipse with GPL projects would give a great boost to GPL Java projects.

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