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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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  • by slughead (592713) on Friday December 02, 2005 @11:43AM (#14165997) Homepage Journal
    ... are the words "no, seriously."
  • 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.

    Simon.
    • by SComps (455760)
      If they don't rewrite it, they'll be forgotten and therefore have no purpose or publicity.

      Here in my office we call it busy work.
    • Re:My First Question (Score:2, Informative)

      by Anonymous Coward
      I think the big thing that wasn't in v2 is language regarding patent stuff. I believe all the relatively recent patent hoopla is the main reason why they decided they need a v3 GPL.
    • by zx75 (304335) on Friday December 02, 2005 @12:06PM (#14166183) Homepage
      Then stick with using GPL v2. But just because it is adequate for your needs, doesn't mean that it neccisarily addresses the concerns of everyone who chooses to use it. Hence the rewrite.
      • Doesn't this dilute the skills pot though.

        If I see some GPL code, I cannot just use it. I will have to check if its the correct version of GPL before I can bring it in.

        This will end in tears.
        • You've gotta do that now anyway, since some code could be GPLv1, BSD, Artistic, etc. This is no different; if you want to use GPLv2-only code in your GPLv2+ or GPLv3 project, you'll just have to include a note saying that that particular code will just have to stay GPLv2 (but it won't stop the rest of the code from being GPLv3).
          • Not only that, but if it becomes compatible with the Apache License, GPLv3 would actually decrease the license incompatibilities of the libre-verse.
          • You've gotta do that now anyway, since some code could be GPLv1, BSD, Artistic, etc. This is no different; if you want to use GPLv2-only code in your GPLv2+ or GPLv3 project, you'll just have to include a note saying that that particular code will just have to stay GPLv2 (but it won't stop the rest of the code from being GPLv3). IF the GPLv3 is compatible with the GPLv2. Now, if the GPLv3 adds some kind of patents clauses, or tries to make strongly explicit the "inexistent linking clause", or even adds choi
          • 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.

          • If there are any changes to the GPL it could cause v2 only and v3+ to be incompatible.

            For example if they make the GPL an EULA.
      • Observe that the notice used by much GPL software contains the following:

        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.

        Anyone using the GPL v2 is potentially forced into having their software licensed under the GPL v3, and the GPL v4, and the GPL v5, or any other future version of the GPL.

        Even if that particular user
        • This isn't a surprise though - savvy authors have been deleting the 'or any later version' clause from their copies for a long time.

          I believe linux itself is a v2 only license.
          • Other than Linus Torvalds, practically zero people's projects have deleted the "or later version" bit. ...and I don't think it was one of Linus's better thought out moves.
            • Well I *do* ... (Score:3, Interesting)

              by hummassa (157160)
              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"?
            • I think it is a good move to restrict to the v2, particularly since it seems that people have different views of what the GPL means.

              Not forcing distribution of source code when access is permitted yet no distibution of the binary has taken is one of the contested issues being discussed for the GPL v3.

              One group claims this is the intended behaviour and within the spirit of the GPL. One group claims this is a loophole and is against the spirit of the GPL.

              Depending what is decided the GPLv3 may have one group
        • "potentially forced"? Please. The only people "forced" into using this clause are those who don't read the license before releasing their software under it. They are forced, only by their own stupidity.
        • They are not forced into anything whatseover, ever.

          When you download my code, licended under, say, GPLv2, and it says this.. it means that you may distribute deriviations of my code under the GPLv2 if you wish, or a later version, if you wish. How you want to apply this is up to you; I force you to do nothing.
          If you wish to include the same clause, allowing future versions to be used, that was completely your choice.

          Nobody is forced into anything at all.. the rightsholders deliberately gave you the right t
        • There's no force involved. The licensor chose whether to allow the program to be distributed under a future GNU GPL.
          • Yep. Really, the only risk is that a future version of the GPL could be BSD-style. After all, a more-restrictive GPL license or a license with absurd clauses would simply not be used. The worst that can happen is that someone can re-close their derivation of your code if RMS ever loses his mind.

            Not nice, but hardly catastrophic.
    • Re:My First Question (Score:5, Informative)

      by Ulrich Hobelmann (861309) on Friday December 02, 2005 @12:08PM (#14166199) Journal
      One issue is that some companies use GPLed software and modify and extend it, but don't release it (the GPL only requires you to publish your modifications if you release the software). But these companies run the modified software on their webservers, so it is in use.

      Now that more and more applications run simply over the web, with no publishing involved, some people (like RMS) are interested to extend the concept of Free Software to web apps.
      • by Bogtha (906264) on Friday December 02, 2005 @12:44PM (#14166467)

        Now that more and more applications run simply over the web, with no publishing involved, some people (like RMS) are interested to extend the concept of Free Software to web apps.

        The big problem is that this changes the GPL into a EULA. Right now, the GPL doesn't attempt to restrict anything, it merely grants privileges that would not usually be in effect. That's why it's such a strong license.

        To change the GPL to include restrictions on how you use the software would seem to run counter to the ideals of Free Software; namely that you are free to use the software as you please. It's also vulnerable to the same criticisms of other EULAs. Basically, the only thing that allows copyright holders to bind you to terms is the fact that you are copying. But copying for the purpose of using the software (e.g. installation) is explicitly not copyright infringement under USA law. That means that if you are merely using the software, the copyright holder has no leverage to bind you to their terms.

        • Re:My First Question (Score:3, Informative)

          by cortana (588495)
          It doesn't have to turn into an EULA.

          The kind of clauses being speculated about are those such as, (very broadly) you may not remove the software's ability to provide a link to the source code to the end user.

          Copyright law reserves the rights of distribution and modification to the copyright holder. So the copyright holder may grant you the right to distribute and modify the software as long as you don't remove the source code distribution functionality.
          • by MobyDisk (75490)
            You are incorrect.
            Copyright law reserves the rights of distribution and modification to the copyright holder.
            Copyright does not reserve the right of modification, only distribution. A modification is called a "derived work" but copyright does not prevent you from creating derived works. It only prevents distributing them. And that brings us back to the original problem, which is that if you run your own server then you aren't distributing them.
            • Copyright does not reserve the right of modification, only distribution. A modification is called a "derived work" but copyright does not prevent you from creating derived works. It only prevents distributing them.

              The exact quote of the copyright holder's right is "(2) to prepare derivative works based upon the copyrighted work;" If you look at the definitions, "prepare" is not defined specificly but it used in the definition of "create":

              "A work is 'created' when it is fixed in a copy or phonorecord for the
          • So the copyright holder may grant you the right to distribute and modify the software as long as you don't remove the source code distribution functionality

            Close.

            The copyright holder has no say at all on whether or not I may modify my own copy of the software.

            More interestingly, however...

            Even if I modify my own copy of the software for use on a public server, as long as I do not actually in any way distribute the program to anyone else, that is, make any copies that are not covered by the "persona

        • I see what you're saying, but I think the real issue is whether "use" is tantamount to "distribution" in the context of a hosted application. I would argue that there is no functional difference between: (a) shipping an installer CD for an application to be deployed on Generic Company's servers for its internal use, and (b) providing that same application's functionality for Generic Company's internal use via a hosted application service. Don't you agree that there's some overlap worth exploring there?

          Als
          • ### BTW, how is the GPL *not* an EULA? Doesn't it impose conditions on the use of software as a condition of use?

            GPL doesn't limit how you use the software, neither does it require that you publish modifications, the GPL only kicks in when you distribute your software, as long as you don't distribute it you can do whatever you want. And distribution isn't 'use' since copyright laws says otherwise, has nothing todo with the GPL itself.
        • The big problem is that this changes the GPL into a EULA. Right now, the GPL doesn't attempt to restrict anything, it merely grants privileges that would not usually be in effect. That's why it's such a strong license.

          Even under what might be in the proposed new license, your use of a licensed program is not restricted at all. Rather, you just might have a new obligation to distribute GPL'ed code that you use in a publicly exhibited application. If you don't want to distribute the code, then don't public
        • GPLv3 != EULA (Score:4, Insightful)

          by ObsessiveMathsFreak (773371) <obsessivemathsfreak@@@eircom...net> on Friday December 02, 2005 @01:54PM (#14167083) Homepage Journal
          The big problem is that this changes the GPL into a EULA. Right now, the GPL doesn't attempt to restrict anything, it merely grants privileges that would not usually be in effect. That's why it's such a strong license.

          To change the GPL to include restrictions on how you use the software would seem to run counter to the ideals of Free Software; namely that you are free to use the software as you please.


          I would disagree with this interpretation.

          The GPLv2 has never said anything nor placed restriction on how you use the software. In effect, the GPL only comes into play when you some to redistriute the software, and says that you must redistribute the source code when you distribute the binaries to others.

          The GPLv3 again will not say anything or place restriction on how you, you use the software. You're still free to tinker as you please privately and keep the changes to yourself. Again on distribution you must include those changes.

          However the GPLv3, in response to potential or actual shenannegans with web deployment, will specify that when you also come to offer your software as a service to users, you must also include the changes to your code, and make them and the original code visible to those users.

          This makes a lot of sense. When I run a web app for users acting as thin clients, I'm effectively distributing my program to them. Albiet now the licence is for an extremely limited time, and the calculations are taking place on my machine. However, in effect, a binary of my program has been, however temporarily, placed at the disposal of that one user. They are a user after all. they are "using" the program.

          In a way the GPLv3 is a lot better than GPLv2. The GPLv2 only covered the distribution of the binary of the program. GPLv3 covers the service of the program, or more succinctly, the program itself. If you offer the service of the program to someone else, directly, in whatever way, then you must show them your source code. You can see that binaries fall under this definition as well.

          Of course companies will try to write wrapper programs to get around this, so that users are not directly using their app, etc, etc, etc. However, I think most won't go to the bother and will just publish their code. After all, how many trade secrets are going to be in your average php/asp page anyway.

          It's all about making sure that users are empowered, and that software is both transparent and modifyable to everyone. Stallman originally argued on the grounds of modifyability, which of course is critical to the whole process. But the transparency conferred by this has benefits for the public at large which outweight even the benefits of modifyability. But you need modifyability in order for software to be free. Just having transparency would be like am autocracy having transparency in its government offices. You might be able to see what's going on, but you still can't do anything about it.
          • Re:GPLv3 != EULA (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Arandir (19206)
            However, in effect, a binary of my program has been, however temporarily, placed at the disposal of that one user. They are a user after all. they are "using" the program.

            You are playing semantic word games. The users of the service are no more using the software than I am using the accounting software of my accountant when he does my taxes. Service is a use, and by regulating servicing, the GPLv3 will be regulating usage. Say goodbye to GPLv2 Clause 0!

            This isn't merely the nose of the camel entering the te
      • [S]ome companies use GPLed software and modify ... it, but don't release it ... But these companies run the modified software on their webservers ... [S]ome people (like RMS) are interested to extend the concept of Free Software to web apps.

        Man, this just goes too far. I get the feeling that if Stallman had been around at the invention of the typewriter, I'd still be writing longhand for fear of donating all my copyright.

        • Congratulations, you're ridiculous and have completely missed the point.

          You can write code in RMS's editor, Emacs, without having to put it under the GPL.

          He's not interested in "restricting your freedom" (if that's what you choose to feel like the GPL does) to do whatever the hell you want with your own code. He's interested in restricting your freedom" to do whatever the hell you want with HIS CODE.

          If you don't want the GPL to 'infect' your application, then DON'T USE GPL'D CODE. Write it yourself, you laz
      • I understand the sentiment, but I think the community needs to be very, very careful when considering this type of change. Because in many ways it is a massive structural change in the very nature of GPL software. Currently, as a user, I don't really have to worry much about the GPL. It doesn't really impose anything at all for most people. And even though technically I have to accept the GPL to modify the code, that's currently trivial if I don't distribute the code.

        But if the GPL is changed so that someho
    • The Fine article doesnt go into depth, but the way I remember it, I believe it's to do with web-apps, web-services and such. Currently, under ver2, it is possible for you to download an OSS project such as, say, Slash, make modifications to the code, and host it publically without needing to release the source code to your modifications. I believe the ver3 effort will primarily address situations such as this.

      Now, it's a different matter to discuss whether such a situation is, indeed, in need of a remedy,

    • Re:My First Question (Score:5, Informative)

      by SwiftOne (11497) on Friday December 02, 2005 @12:11PM (#14166221)
      There are a few issues that the GPLv2 doesn't cover, or is a bit too vague on. As I understand the desired improvements, some big points are:

      * Language that is happier with different jurisdictions. (some legal terms have very different meanings in different countries)
      * Patents. Patents Icky. Dealing with Patents Icky.
      * Wrapping binaries. I think some parties want some more clear language here to prevent violations of the spirit of the GPL.
      * with GPLv2, if you expose the service of the software but not the binary, you don't have to distribute changes. So I could take slash code (if it's GPL, which I don't recall), hack some changes, and sell access to the website using those changes, and never have to share my code, which violates the spirit of the GPL.

      I don't think the idea is to toss the GPLv2, but instead to keep doing the same thing...only more so.
      • I disagree (Score:3, Insightful)

        by p3d0 (42270) *

        So I could take slash code (if it's GPL, which I don't recall), hack some changes, and sell access to the website using those changes, and never have to share my code, which violates the spirit of the GPL.

        How does this violate the spirit of the GPL? We'd have to ask Mr. Stallman for an official answer, but in my opinion, the GPL was intended to maximize people's freedom with regards to the software they use, and I don't see how forcing web sites to publish their server code enhances anyone's freedom.

        • You say, "software they use". The question is are the users the web site administrator or the web site visitors. I think the argument could be made the users are the web site visitors, so they should have access to the code. They are operating the program, just that they are using a longer wire then your keyboard wire.

          The problem with making this change it that it would change the GPL from a copyright licence, to an End-User Lincence which may have serious problems with enforcement.

          It might be worth doing a
          • Re:I disagree (Score:3, Insightful)

            by Syberghost (10557)
            The question is are the users the web site administrator or the web site visitors. I think the argument could be made the users are the web site visitors, so they should have access to the code. They are operating the program, just that they are using a longer wire then your keyboard wire.

            This is about like saying that if you come over to visit me in my house, you have the right to paint it.
            • No, this is like saying if you come over to my house you can ask me for the blueprints and build a house just like mine which you can paint any color you like (and modify it in other ways).
              • No, this is like saying if you come over to my house you can ask me for the blueprints and build a house just like mine which you can paint any color you like (and modify it in other ways).

                No, it's like saying that the guy who built my house for me can force me to give you those blueprints, and the blueprints of any rooms I added myself, under penalty of civil action.

                You can ASK me all you want; I don't have to say yes.
        • How does this violate the spirit of the GPL?

          Perhaps I used a poor example. The concern comes when services become all server-based.

          If MS made a version of Word that worked like Writely [writely.com] for example, and used OpenOffice.org as its code base, they could put the bookmark on very Windows PC and sell accounts for 1 Gajillion dollars, but never distribute a _binary_, and thus never have to redistribute their code changes.

          Where is the line between an application being server-based (and thus not "distrubted")

      • So I could take slash code (if it's GPL, which I don't recall), hack some changes, and sell access to the website using those changes, and never have to share my code, which violates the spirit of the GPL.

        I could also maintain an internal version of the Linux kernel with better network throughput. Would I legally owe a copy of my changes to visitors to my sites? How about patches to Gnucash, since my customers are "using" the invoices that it generates?

        Those examples might be dumb, but the point is th

        • Those examples might be dumb, but the point is that you can take the concept of "user" with regards to the GPL arbitrarily far, and I really don't think it's a good idea for the FSF to go down that road.

          Not dumb at all, for the reasons you specify. However, in a better example above, I pointed out making an Office version that was web-based and build on OpenOffice code, and selling accounts. This is not appreciably different than distributing binaries, except that it is legally different. GPLv3 wants

    • Why? The GPL2 does everything I want it to.

      Yeah! Windows 2000 did everything I wanted it to do as well, but damn Microsoft had to go make Windows XP! Bastages!
  • by N3Roaster (888781) <nealw@NOSpAM.acm.org> on Friday December 02, 2005 @11:49AM (#14166043) Homepage Journal
    I keep reading about this, and I can never figure why the rapid adoption of Linux makes GPLv3 important. Sure, there are a lot of projects that use the GPL that allow distribution under the current or any future version of the GPL, but Linux isn't one of them. From /usr/src/linux/COPYING

    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.


    So what's the Linux connection here?
  • 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.
    • The mailing list info-gplv3 is how rms is going to announce developments in the process (e.g. draft releases). Additionally, there will be opportunities for volunteers to contribute to the drafting process beyond offering your two-cents, which will also be solicited via the info-gplv3 mailing list. The "I want to participate" basically translates to: "Keep me informed on what's going on so that I can make informed choices about my own involvement." Except that would have been a wee-bit wordy for a web form
  • My vote.. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by hackdot (183880)
    My vote would be to change the requirement of including to just making sources publicly available. Geez. This has got to be my biggest complaint about Linux distros. They balloon to incredibly huge sizes and a good portion of that is because they have to include the sources. Am I the only one that remembers the old days of a 50MB, usable OS install?
    • Re:My vote.. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by panthro (552708)

      Part of the problem with that is that someone could then distribute binaries, presumably for profit of some kind, and make the sources publicly available but hard to obtain. How would you stop someone from, say, obscuring the location of the sources, requiring free registration (read: handing over of e-mail address to spammers) to the site to obtain them, or some other such nonsense? Requiring them to be distributed with the binaries means that the sources are guaranteed to be as easy to obtain as the binar

    • The common distros put the source on seperate CD(s), you don't need to download or carry them around. But I still agree with you, in this day I think it is sufficient that source be put on web, put the burden of physical storage and obtaining the source on the person who wants it
    • Re:My vote.. (Score:2, Interesting)

      by golden_spray (834865)
      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
    • My vote would be to change the requirement of including to just making sources publicly available.

      Someone hasn't read the GPL - that's exactly what it does say. It offers three different ways of making the source available.

      Geez. This has got to be my biggest complaint about Linux distros. They balloon to incredibly huge sizes and a good portion of that is because they have to include the sources.

      They don't have to include the sources - they do because enough people find them useful. At the very leas

      • Actually the GPL only requires that the source be made available to those you distribute the binaries to (or in one case, whoever has your written offer of source code). Theres no requirement to make the source publicly available. And this is how it should stay, why should someone have to put up with the expenditure of thousands upon thousands of people downloading the source from them when they only distributed the binaries to one person and gave them the source at the same time?
    • Re:My vote.. (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Kjella (173770)
      My vote would be to change the requirement of including to just making sources publicly available. Geez. This has got to be my biggest complaint about Linux distros. They balloon to incredibly huge sizes and a good portion of that is because they have to include the sources. Am I the only one that remembers the old days of a 50MB, usable OS install?

      You're aware that most (all?) distros don't include source in their releases? They are typically released on separate source discs which you'd have to go out of
  • by johnhennessy (94737) on Friday December 02, 2005 @12:00PM (#14166129)
    Are there issues with the current GPL that need to be fixed ? Or even some parts that need to be clarified ?

    If there are actual issues with the license, then a rewrite is a good thing - all I'm concerned about is that people don't waste time developing a new license when one isn't needed. In the end, its adoption will be decided by the various projects - on a case by case basis, so just because there is a version 3, doesn't guarantee adoption, unless it brings benefits. ... And hopefully it doesn't spawn pro- and anti- GPLv3 wars in every GPLv2 project ! While licensing is important, it shouldn't create huge overheads that distract developers from doing what they do best.
    • by rkcallaghan (858110) on Friday December 02, 2005 @12:11PM (#14166223)
      Are there issues with the current GPL that need to be fixed ?

      The GPLv2 doesn't properly deal with patent issues, only copyright. Thus, with some legal smoke and mirrors, it is possible to comply with the letter of the GPLv2, gaining free use of other GPLv2 code in the process, while shipping your code/product under patent restrictions, preventing it from being redistrobutable or adjustable freely.

      ~Rebecca
      • Someone else hasn't read the GPL. From section 7:

        ...if a patent license would not permit royalty-free redistribution of the Program by all those who receive copies directly or indirectly through you, then the only way you could satisfy both it and this License would be to refrain entirely from distribution of the Program.

        In effect, you must either license the patent royalty-free for derived works of the GPL'd code, or you must not use the GPL. Or, as the preamble puts it:

        Finally, any free program is th

        • That doesn't go far enough for some. They want the license to terminate as soon as the other party brings action against the copyright holder for any patent infringements whatsoever.

          Of course, even this can't defend against patent hoarding thinktank companies.
          • Termination of the licence to use doesn't matter.

            However by distributing a patent license with the work you do have a very good defence.
            From sec 7 it is quite clear that unless a patent license is granted you can not distribute this code.

            Two wrongs don't make a right, however they would have to argue against knowingly violating copyright, while you could argue that you had a reason to believe they granted you a patent license.

            For example, if a patent license would not permit royalty-free redistribution of t
        • Someone else hasn't read the GPL. From section 7:

          ...if a patent license would not permit royalty-free redistribution of the Program by all those who receive copies directly or indirectly through you, then the only way you could satisfy both it and this License would be to refrain entirely from distribution of the Program.

          In effect, you must either license the patent royalty-free for derived works of the GPL'd code, or you must not use the GPL. Or, as the preamble puts it:

          Finally, any free pro

    • by kebes (861706)
      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 t
      • Your military analogy doesn't really hold up.

        If the users of Google are the people who search, then the users of the Military's use of GPL code is most likely on the other end of that Tomahawk, and in a few seconds, I dont think they'll care a whole lot about getting the code that's about to blow them up.
        • Sorry I guess I wasn't clear. Clearly Google and the military are different cases. The reason I mention the military is that if you put in a clause "All derivatives of GPL code must be made available to the world" then the military cannot use GPL code. Hence why I suggested a middle-ground solution would be "All GPL-derived code must be made available to users of the resultant program, even if the binary is not explicitly delivered to them." This would force Google to provide source code to users, but would
    • by j00bar (895519) <slashdotNO@SPAMflowtheory.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
    • Here are a couple of interesting snippets from the GPLv3 process pdf [fsf.org] that I didn't see in the other responses:

      While the GPL is the most popular Free Software License, followed by the LGPL, a significant set of free software is licensed under other terms which are not compatible with version 2 of the GPL. Version 3 of the GPL will provide compatibility with more non-GPL free licenses.

      . . .

      Version 3 of the GPL should reduce the difficulties of internationalization. Version 3 should more fully appro

  • 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.
    • In what way and why?

      You can't patent GPLed code, because it's prior art.
      If you have patents on something, the GPL isn't a valid license, because then the code isn't free of restrictions (as the GPL requires for publishing).
      • "In what way and why?"

        Because for the last few years one of the knocks against GPL'ed applications has been that they MAY be infringing on patents held by commercial applications. You can call it simple FUD, but I'm just following the money here. This initiative is partially being funded by a couple of commercial entities who depend on GPL software and would very much like the patent vs. GPL license FUD to go away. The intent of this initiative is to revise the license. Therefore, I'm suggesting tha

      • It's true that that's what it's supposed to mean, but legally speaking, it's not what it actually says. There's apparently a flaw in the wording that creates a loophole whereby patent holders can (validly) release GPLv2 code without also licensing their patent, such that the code is useless and they can effectively take without giving back. One of the two main reasons for making the GPLv3 is to fix this flaw and close the loophole by explicitly stating that GPLv3 code cannot contain patent licensing restr
  • by CyricZ (887944) on Friday December 02, 2005 @12:25PM (#14166320)
    Having talked to various developers, these recent licensing shenanigans have not been particularly good for the open source community.

    Many developers wish to make use of open source software, but are getting to the point where they're not sure what exactly they're allowed to do with some particular piece of software.

    These developers are not lawyers, and do not want to waste their time trying to figure out fairly complex licenses. Individual consultants and smaller development firms can't necessarily afford to hire a lawyer to verify that they're complying with the terms of all the licenses their project may be subjected to.

    I know many professional developers who won't even touch LGPL'ed libraries. They stick with software released under the BSD license, for instance, because it has very clear and concise terms. They know what they can do with such software, and thus can focus on developing solutions, rather than getting bogged down in legal nonsense.

    While the GPL v3 may offer some degree of protection with respect to patents, any such benefits may be mitigated by the fact that many developers out there are not interested in becoming lawyers. They don't want to get bogged down trying to interpret relatively complex licenses.

    • by real gumby (11516) on Friday December 02, 2005 @03:17PM (#14167859)
      That's cool. For some software I use a 3P license and pay a cash royalty; I generally use the compiler-included helper libraries (arithmetic conversions and startup code end the like) without worrying about it, and most of the time of use free code of various stripes. In all of those cases I check the license -- sometimes it's quite enlightening even in the case where you think you paid the developer $25K for a royalty-free buy-out! To me these are all just special cases of the same thing. The fact is that _regardless_ of where the code came from you have to do this checking. If you optimize by finding one or two that happen to work for you, great. The mere existence of someone who chose BSD as the one to standardize on doesn't especially distinguish it -- I can easily point to companies who only use code they pay for, for whatever reason.

      By the way I wrote the original (?13 years ago?) draft that became the 1.0 LGPL you mention. John Gilmore suggested to me what turned out to be the most important clause: that you could dynamically link to such a library without having any licensing impact at all. Those terms are more liberal than any cash-royalty license I've ever seen (and don't even include the announcement clause of the BSD license), and made Linux's userland possible.
  • I don't necessarily agree with all of the goals of the GPL (I favour MIT style, or the quaint "public domain"). But I do think that the current IP system is dysfunctional as applied to biology and software. I sit hoping RIM would just disable all US Blackberry users Monday morning and let the government solve it by Wednesday, incidentally sparking wide ranging discussion about reform.

    THAT won't happen, so I suppose I can watch the tinkering with the GPL while I wait.

  • NYTimes' take... (Score:3, Informative)

    by veg_all (22581) on Friday December 02, 2005 @12:51PM (#14166534)
    Here's [tinyurl.com] a New York Times article from yesterday. Fun quote:
    In Mr. Stallman's view, proprietary software is an unwarranted restriction on the freedom of information. The revision of the G.P.L., he said, is "part of something bigger - part of the long-term effort to liberate cyberspace." Software patents, he said, are "utterly insane."

    For Microsoft's part, Steven A. Ballmer, its chief executive, has called the G.P.L. a "cancer."

    Yet in his way, Mr. Stallman is also quite pragmatic. Proprietary software applications can run on Linux without restrictions, which is important for the survival of Linux as a viable alternative to commercial operating systems.
  • I don't agree with some things RMS says and does, but the GPL is a common industry standard, and most people have at least a vague sense of what it means and implies. When I used the Artistic and ZLIB/LIBPNG livcense, it caused no end of confusion; using GPL cuts down on questions.

    I've successfully gone the dual-licensing route, GPL for open source clients, and a "non-free" (as in beer) license that can (depending on the customer's needs) spell out specific rights, included the ability to include my cod

    • 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

  • The GPLv3 will (or won't) be the internet-ready version of the GPL. At least I hope. It will allow users the four rights (Free Software) that are circumvented/denied by online apps (webapps and al). Sooner is better.
  • 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?

    Robert

I took a fish head to the movies and I didn't have to pay. -- Fish Heads, Saturday Night Live, 1977.

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