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Programming Software Linux IT Technology

Free Software Foundation Begins Rewriting the GPL 283

Posted by Zonk
from the dust-off-that-language dept.
Robert writes "The first update to the GNU General Public License in 15 years has begun. Details about the process and guidelines by which it will be updated by the Free Software Foundation, and the free/open source community at large, are now available. The FSF has announced plans to release the first draft of the new license for comment at a conference to be held at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in mid-January 2006." From the article: "This is the first time the GPL has been open to a public development process. Stallman created version 1 himself in 1985 and introduced version 2 in 1991 after taking legal advice and collecting developer opinion. The rapid adoption of Linux and hundred of other software products licensed under the GPL makes the development of GPLv3 a significant event, and one that is now likely to involve some of the biggest vendors in the industry, with Hewlett-Packard, Novell, and Red Hat already having declared their intention to participate."
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Free Software Foundation Begins Rewriting the GPL

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  • My First Question (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Ckwop (707653) <Simon.Johnson@gmail.com> on Friday December 02, 2005 @11:47AM (#14166027) Homepage
    Why? The GPL2 does everything I want it to.

  • by ubiquitin (28396) * on Friday December 02, 2005 @11:51AM (#14166071) Homepage Journal
    Anyone subscribe to Stallman's new mailing list?
    http://www.gplv3.fsf.org/index05 [fsf.org]

    I hesitated because it didn't just say "subscribe".
    The submit button says "I want to participate." which is hard to do without knowing exactly what you're participating in first.
  • by xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) on Friday December 02, 2005 @12:07PM (#14166191)
    $100 says this new version is being created largely to address software patents. I'd be surprised if there aren't several new sections of the license that attempt to address this area.
  • Re:My vote.. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by golden_spray (834865) on Friday December 02, 2005 @12:13PM (#14166236)
    I think the current wording of the GPL requires that you provide the source code to anyone that requests it. So in general it is far more convient to just bundle them together. Consider the case of someone who acquires the binaries but does not have internet access. To provide the source code you will need to physically send them a copy. If you distribute binaries, simply posting the source online is not necessary good enough (according to GPLv2).

    This wording was created pre-internet boom, so it is not clear if that could be changed or not. From a purests point of view, why should someone unable to access the "public place" be denied access to the source code?
  • by kebes (861706) on Friday December 02, 2005 @12:25PM (#14166316) Journal
    Some people want the GPL to be rewritten so that you are forced to release the source code for a modified/derivative product, even if you don't distribute the resulting program/binary.

    For instance, some people are somewhat annoyed that Google has a huge number of linux boxes running, and that they have tweaked and customized the linux code to get their own special version of linux. They clearly benefit from the open-source nature of linux, but do not release the changes they make. This is allowed under the GPL because they are not distributing the resultant program. They are only using it internally. Yet, they are distributing information/data/effects derived from the program (the return of search results comes from a linux system... even though they don't distribute the program itself to the end-user).

    It's a grey zone, and worthy of some careful debate. If a company modifies GPL code and uses it only internally, should they be forced to publish the source code? What about the military? They want to use GPL code in their projects, but are not likely to accept releasing changes they make (for a whole variety of reasons!). Maybe a middle-ground is required: you need to distribute source/changes if you distribute the program/binaries AND if you distribute data resulting from this program (i.e.: even if the customer interacts with the program indirectly, and never has the binary on their system, they are still a "user" and need access to the source).

    That's just one example of something that the original GPL didn't consider, and may be worthy of consideration now.
  • by j00bar (895519) <slashdot&flowtheory,net> on Friday December 02, 2005 @12:42PM (#14166457) Homepage
    There are most definitely reasons for a rewrite, and most of them have to with developments that have taken our industry by storm since 1991 and which will continue to impact us in the near future. The GPLv2 does not successfully account for many of these.

    Some questions which will likely be considered in the GPLv3 drafting process:

    1) Back in 1991, the GPL was written centered on specifics to United States Copyright Law. With the diversification of international copyright law since the Berne convention -- some countries have implemented various manifestations of DMCA like laws, others have not -- how does a license that must govern international transactions of copyright account for these discrepancies?

    2) How can software patents encumber free software? For example, let's say I write a word processor that is licensed under the GPLv2 and I submit and receive a patent for my word processor document format. If you write a derivative work of my word processor, are you infringing on my patent? Does that violate the principles of software freedom?

    3) How does Trusted Computing encumber free software? For example, let's say I write the software for a DVR that uses GPL software and is licensed under the GPL. But let's further say that my DVR used TPM, and it won't run the DVR software if it is not signed with my private key. You can modify the source, and you may even be able to load a modified binary back onto the DVR, but without me signing your binary, it won't run. Does that violate the principles of software freedom?

    I don't know the answers. They haven't been decided yet. These may not be all the questions -- they may not be among the questions. But that these questions are out there are symbolic of the need for a community-driven effort to reassess the future of software freedom.

    The GPLv3 process will be a discussion of the free software community on how we can best ensure that the essential freedoms the GPL tries to protect are in fact protectable. And though rms is the final arbiter of what GPLv3 will actually be, these are questions that we the free software community as a whole need to discuss.

    -jag, a.k.a. jag@fsf.org
  • Re:My First Question (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Fujisawa Sensei (207127) on Friday December 02, 2005 @12:55PM (#14166557) Journal

    First off the auther said GPLm not BSD, Artistic, or WTFPL.

    Secondly it does matter, because there is no requirement for source-code download linking in GPL

    If that clause does make it into GPL V3+ it will make a big honking difference.

  • Well I *do* ... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by hummassa (157160) on Friday December 02, 2005 @12:58PM (#14166591) Homepage Journal
    think it was one of Linus's better thought out moves.
    Would you sign a contract to rent a place that said "the landlord's nephew can at anytime change the terms of this contract at will"?
  • by vga_init (589198) on Friday December 02, 2005 @01:25PM (#14166820) Journal

    I wish the FSF well in its quest to create the perfect balance between freedom and the protection of creators' rights.

    The GPL is designed around the idea that "what's good for the community is good for the individual." Because of this reasoning, the GPL seeks to defend the public first by making the developer/contributor give up certain luxuries, such as that of closing the source or not releasing it (this in turn helps your FOSS project not to be hijacked and closed by a private enterprise). It allows you to sell it, but not the luxury of telling others that they can't share it.

    They used to tell us in school in the United States that "liberty is not freedom to do what we want, but freedom to do what we ought." Freedom can be used to do antisocial things, and things like proprietary softare are fundamentally antisocial. That doesn't mean they aren't good pieces of software, it's just that their goal is not to maximize the benefit to the community but rather to maximize the profit of the author by denying access to classes of people. While you're sacrificing a little bit of freedom to do something antisocial, you're in turn creating a vast amount of freedom for everyone else.

    I'm not sure what "rights" the creator has that the GPL doesn't protect...I'd like to know more about what you're thinking just to be sure.

    As far as I'm concerned, the GPL is the best license for "Free" software in the purest sense of the word. I think it embodies the ideals and goals of our movement. Not all software is Free software, so of course you need other licenses to fit what it is that you'd like to do with your particular project, but I think all of the complaints against the GPL are unwarranted in the sense that they attack it for not being something it was never supposed to be in the first place.

  • The legal trap (Score:3, Interesting)

    by stock (129999) * <stock@stokkie.net> on Saturday December 03, 2005 @06:02PM (#14175157) Homepage
    "Jim Gatto, intellectual property and patent attorney for the Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman law firm, says version 3 of the GPL has been a long time coming. "A number of people have raised different concerns about the GPL," Gatto says."

    Well there we have it. Where the GPLv2 was and still is maybe the most brilliant example of a software license ever, I today already see it coming that GPLv3 will become the deepest pitch hole in which a Open Source project can slide into. Where in the recent past originating project authors like Harald Welte from iptables could single handed see their GPLv2 being validated in court, by use of limited efforts, i predict the death of open source, simply by the need of outrageous legal resources to defend your GPLv3 license in court.

    When that happens, Free and Open Source Software using the GPL License will have died in the hands of the humble programmers, and big software corporations will use GPLv3 as a disguised License cover to simply continue their old practices, and feed their Corporations with the efforts of a new generation of open source programmer employees, who have been trained to think that their job is helping the open source community.

    The GPLv3 might even derange GPL-ed Open Source into big Corporations only projects , as no ordinary hobby programmer will be able to afford the costs of such a thing.

    So do not fall into this trap. The GPLv2 has never been overturned so far in court. Why introduce a expensive legal vehicle, which the GPLv3 might become, to see the GPL finally get defeated in Court, only because the defendants went out of cash?


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