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Free Software Foundation Begins Rewriting the GPL

Zonk posted more than 8 years ago | from the dust-off-that-language dept.

Programming 283

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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283 comments

The largest amendment to this new draft... (5, Funny)

slughead (592713) | more than 8 years ago | (#14165997)

... are the words "no, seriously."

Re:The largest amendment to this new draft... (4, Funny)

krgallagher (743575) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166019)

"The largest amendment to this new draft..."

The requirement that all free software be called GNU/Software.

Re:The largest amendment to this new draft... (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14166061)

They'll amend it with a declaration saying that if your software is not licensed under GPL it is not free software (and, in small type, that the streets must run red with the blood of unbelievers).

And in other news (-1, Flamebait)

everphilski (877346) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166006)

Stallman's head became so big it can now be used as a floatation device in case of an emergency landing...

-everphilski-

Impossible (-1, Flamebait)

winkydink (650484) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166022)

He and his ego cannot fit inside any commercial jet. The Air Force has graciously loaned him a C-5A, though reports are, it's a tight fit.

Re:Impossible (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14166405)

"The Air Force has graciously loaned him a C-5A, though reports are, it's a tight fit."

Maybe they should ask the Russians for their An-225.

DUPE again - what's with e-mails to editors? (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14166021)

If you are a subscriber and get a chance to previous a story, you get a chance to e-mail the current editor in charge and alert him about any problems in the story. But why are these e-mails totally ignored, even when they are sent more than 10 minutes before the story actually gets published? What's the point in warning the editor about dupes if nobody cares?

Abuse of the moderation system (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14166425)

The only moderation on the parent comment is "-1, Overrated".

Something like "-1, Offtopic" could have been (barely) understandable, but using "-1, Overrated" is just a way to abuse the moderation system and avoid being meta-moderated as unfair.

And by the way, that comment should have been moderated "+1, Informative" or "+1, Insightful".

My First Question (4, Interesting)

Ckwop (707653) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166027)

Why? The GPL2 does everything I want it to.

Simon.

Re:My First Question (2, Insightful)

SComps (455760) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166056)

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.

Software Patents... (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14166269)

Since the introduction of the GPL2 Software Patents have reared their ugly head and need to be addressed.

Re:My First Question (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14166116)

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.

Re:My First Question (5, Insightful)

zx75 (304335) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166183)

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.

Re:My First Question (3, Insightful)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166210)

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.

Re:My First Question (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166373)

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).

Re:My First Question (1)

Peter La Casse (3992) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166452)

Not only that, but if it becomes compatible with the Apache License, GPLv3 would actually decrease the license incompatibilities of the libre-verse.

Big IF (1)

hummassa (157160) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166478)

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 choice-of-{venue,law} clauses, that could be construed as "additional restrictions" and the distribution of the combination of the GPLv3 modules with GPLv2 modules is forbidden to anyone but the original (common) copyright holder of both.

Re:My First Question (2, Interesting)

Fujisawa Sensei (207127) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166557)

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.

But that's not an option. (2, Insightful)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166262)

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 wants his program released under only the terms of the GPL v2, if such a notice is included in his software then it may very well be that future versions of the license are applicable.

Re:But that's not an option. (1)

Tony Hoyle (11698) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166294)

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.

"savvy authors"? (1)

H4x0r Jim Duggan (757476) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166376)

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.

Re:"savvy authors"? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14166414)

Yeah, he should've licensed it under the WTFPL [zoy.org] license.

Well I *do* ... (2, Interesting)

hummassa (157160) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166591)

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"?

Re:But that's not an option. (1)

cortana (588495) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166298)

"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.

Re:But that's not an option. (3, Informative)

mindstrm (20013) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166300)

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 to pick a later version of the GPL becaues they trust the FSF.

Simple, right?

Re:But that's not an option. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14166368)

Obeserve 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.

Funny how picking three different words to bold gives your quote a whole new meaning.

"Forced" indeed.

Re:But that's not an option. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14166446)

Well then obviously that author should not have included "or any later version" when licensing his work under GPL2 !

Is that hard to figure out?

It was a choice of the licensor, no force involved (1)

jbn-o (555068) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166497)

There's no force involved. The licensor chose whether to allow the program to be distributed under a future GNU GPL.

Re:My First Question (4, Informative)

Ulrich Hobelmann (861309) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166199)

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.

Re:My First Question (5, Insightful)

Bogtha (906264) | more than 8 years ago | (#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 (2, Informative)

cortana (588495) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166548)

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.

Sorta misses the point (1)

SPYvSPY (166790) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166659)

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?

Also, consider the reason for the GPL's requirement that the source be distributed with the executable code. Isn't the policy essentially to allow your users to become co-developers in order to improve the quality/functionality that the distributed code offers? I would say it is, at least in part. Consequently, why should the hosted application model be exempt from the same policy? It seems logical to me that hosted applications should be treated as a distribution under the right circumstances.

BTW, how is the GPL *not* an EULA? Doesn't it impose conditions on the use of software as a condition of use? Don't forget that modifying source code is a form of "use", as is distribution. And, finally, to the extent that the copyright laws ensure certain rights for authors, the GPL *is* a restrictive license.

Re:My First Question (1)

fuzzy12345 (745891) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166542)

[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.

Re:My First Question (1)

The Cydonian (603441) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166217)

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, but all the same, I believe the discussions are mainly to do with distributed applications.

Re:My First Question (4, Informative)

SwiftOne (11497) | more than 8 years ago | (#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 (2, Insightful)

p3d0 (42270) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166271)

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.

Re:I disagree (1)

doconnor (134648) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166481)

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 anyway, because even if it fails as an End-User Lincence, we won't be any worse off then we where before.

Re:I disagree (2, Insightful)

Syberghost (10557) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166520)

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.

Re:My First Question (1)

vertinox (846076) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166441)

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!

Why does Linux make this important? (5, Insightful)

N3Roaster (888781) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166043)

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?

Re:Why does Linux make this important? (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14166103)

Ehm, correct me if I'm wrong, but don't many if not the majority of the projects you mention that will be affected run on linux?

Couldn't it be that the success of linux (the kernel) is somehow influenced by the success of open source and free sofware in general and that the GPL plays a major role in this success, or failure?

Couldn't it be that people simply refer to linux not just meaning the kernel, but the whole OS + applications?

Re:Why does Linux make this important? (4, Informative)

cortana (588495) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166139)

When the article meantioned "Linux" it meant "GNU/Linux" as opposed to Linux-the-kernel. A log of GNU/Linux software uses the GPL with the upgrade clause--hence it is important.

Re:Why does Linux make this important? (1)

tdvaughan (582870) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166234)

There's no direct connection to Linux itself - just that Linux serves as a good example of a popular, important GPL project. The summary makes that clear by mentioning that there are many other projects using software that is under the GPL.

Three Laws of Robotics (-1, Offtopic)

anandpur (303114) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166066)

Why no add something like this, so that it can not be used to harm someone.

1. A robot may not harm a human being, or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.
2. A robot must obey the orders given to it by human beings, except where such orders would conflict with the First Law.
3. A robot must protect its own existence, as long as such protection does not conflict with the First or Second Law.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Three_Laws_of_Robotic s [wikipedia.org]

Re:Three Laws of Robotics (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14166242)

Because eventually you'd have to include a zeroth law
That's where things get messy, as if they weren't messy enough already.

Besides, I thought Asimov wrote the three laws and then a series of short stories that showed how the laws were inadequate.

Stallman's GPLv3 mailing list (5, Interesting)

ubiquitin (28396) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166071)

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.

Re:Stallman's GPLv3 mailing list (2, Informative)

j00bar (895519) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166340)

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 button. :-)

-jag, a.k.a. jag@fsf.org

My vote.. (3, Insightful)

hackdot (183880) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166096)

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.. (1)

mlk (18543) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166126)

:huh:
As I understand it, it is currently "has to be available (at cost) to people you give your product to".
I know my applications don't included source by default.

Re:My vote.. (1)

mlk (18543) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166156)

When we speak of free software, we are referring to freedom, not price. Our General Public Licenses are designed to make sure that you have the freedom to distribute copies of free software (and charge for this service if you wish), that you receive source code or can get it if you want it , that you can change the software or use pieces of it in new free programs; and that you know you can do these things.

Re:My vote.. (2, Insightful)

panthro (552708) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166165)

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 binaries.

Re:My vote.. (1)

iggymanz (596061) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166173)

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.. (2, Interesting)

golden_spray (834865) | more than 8 years ago | (#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?

Re:My vote.. (1)

gowen (141411) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166292)

This has got to be my biggest complaint about Linux distros.
I can't think of a single distro besides Gentoo that distributes sources by default. Sure, they're available, but none of the standard install CDs for Fedora or Debian contain source code.

You, sir, are an idiot.

Re:My vote.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14166504)

Every Official Distribution Set comes with Source CD's SuSe, Redhat, even Debian. Just because you only download the binary install iso's doesn't mean source cd's are available. If you download all the isos as part of the available set, source cd's are included.

Re:My vote.. (1)

chunews (924590) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166352)

What a waste of silicon, to have a 50MB install image loaded on a CD (or DVD) when that media can hold so much more! I think it is cheaper to have the sources located on the same media than provide and fund a website to download the same resources. It's also easier, this way, to keep the sources in sync with the actual binaries loaded on the install kit.

Add to this everyone else's comments that geeze, nobody needs the source - it already is available separately in a completely optional downloadable format.

My take is - hey, the sources occupy so much little space (when compressed), that maybe we should only distribute the sources and people can compile it themselves. Oh, but I guess that would disuade the script kiddies from running linux...

Re:My vote.. (1)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166359)

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 least most of them put them on the last CD or two of the distribution set.

Am I the only one that remembers the old days of a 50MB, usable OS install?

No, I remember it. It was last week when I installed OpenBSD 3.8.

Re:My vote.. (1)

Richard_at_work (517087) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166466)

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.. (2, Insightful)

Kjella (173770) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166522)

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 your way to download, so they already do what you want. And they have the option to provide a written offer valid for three years instead as well. The distros have "ballooned" to full CDs because they are complete OS and application suites with multiple choices of software? I think the smallest you can get to have a booting system is a Debian business card or there abouts, with a few light apps on top you have a usable install in 50MB. But there's no way you can provide a full KDE or Gnome desktop complete with all major server apps in 50MB, and I don't see the point of trying.

If anything, I think they should remove section b) and c) entirely. If you distribute online, you can offer a separate source download. If you prepackage and distribute it like a box install, you need to include source (a few cents on a CD). The "written offer" is being abused to obscure source code by providing the binaries for easy download, and only deliver source on CD-ROMs after processing time using the manhour cost of burning CDs to discourage people from doing it, like with the Linksys router software.

Reasons for a rewrite ? (4, Insightful)

johnhennessy (94737) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Re:Reasons for a rewrite ? (5, Insightful)

rkcallaghan (858110) | more than 8 years ago | (#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

Re:Reasons for a rewrite ? (2, Insightful)

TheRaven64 (641858) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166403)

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 threatened constantly by software patents. We wish to avoid the danger that redistributors of a free program will individually obtain patent licenses, in effect making the program proprietary. To prevent this, we have made it clear that any patent must be licensed for everyone's free use or not licensed at all.

Re:Reasons for a rewrite ? (1)

cortana (588495) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166562)

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.

Re:Reasons for a rewrite ? (2, Interesting)

kebes (861706) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166316)

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.

Re:Reasons for a rewrite ? (5, Interesting)

j00bar (895519) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166457)

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

Largely irrelivant (0, Redundant)

LiquidCoooled (634315) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166142)

Isn't most of Linux and other projects licensed under v2?

I thought you had to contact all the developers who submitted code under that license to confirm they are OK with changing the terms of that agreement?

Re:Largely irrelivant (1)

N3Roaster (888781) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166222)

Linux (the kernel) is licensed under v2, there are some other projects that are also licensed under a specific version of the GPL, but a lot of projects are licensed under some version of the GPL or any later version (the FSF recommends this), in which case the developers would not have to be contacted and the developers would have to do something about it only if they did not like what GPL3 turns out to be.

Re:Largely irrelivant (1)

panthro (552708) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166240)

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.

I think this (along with, of course, other parts of the license) is fair warning to developers that their code is not only subject to the particular version of the license under which they submitted it, but to any later version. If the developer didn't want their code to fall under GPLv3, they shouldn't have licensed it under GPLv2. Personally, I trust the motives and integrity of the FSF enough to license my code under GPLv2 in the belief that GPLv3 will work for me as well. Remember, though: if something is licensed under GPLv2, then GPLv3 comes into effect, other people can act as if it is licensed under either version.

Re:Largely irrelivant (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166289)

Not true! Many projects, including the Linux kernel, delete that clause and instead state that the source is licensed under GPLv2 only (not v1, not v2.2, not v3).

Re:Largely irrelivant (1)

panthro (552708) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166327)

Yes, I realize that. I figured that the question in the parent post would pretty much be moot for cases like the Linux kernel itself, so I responded referring to the general case where the clause is present.

$100 says this is to address software patents... (2, Interesting)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 8 years ago | (#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:$100 says this is to address software patents.. (1)

Ulrich Hobelmann (861309) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166214)

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).

Re:$100 says this is to address software patents.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14166277)

I don't think GPL3 has anything to do with patents, however it is possible to write licenses that are "patent-aware" (for good or evil). For instance, you say "you can use this code however you want, but not in conjunction with any other software that implements patented algorithms." That would prevent people from interoperating with your code if they use software patents. In some cases, I guess this would discourage software patents.

Again, I emphasize I am not advocating such a system, nor do I think that GPL 3 will have anything of the sort in it. I'm just saying that it's possible to write a license that is affected, or affects, patents.

Re:$100 says this is to address software patents.. (1)

xxxJonBoyxxx (565205) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166288)

"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 that the result of the initiative will likely be a new GPL license that explicitly addresses the patent issue.

Re:$100 says this is to address software patents.. (1)

mrchaotica (681592) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166328)

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 restrictions.

Re:$100 says this is to address software patents.. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14166546)

In that case even the current GPL is void due to section 7.

This isn't against you personally but it seems to me that there is a lot of misunderstandings concerning the GPL like the idea that if you merge your code with GPL code it automatically becomes GPLed (it doesn't, of course if you distribute it, you're violating copyright law because you are not within the bounds of the GPL but that doesn't make your own code GPL just open you up for litigation), the previously mentioned suggestions that you have to provide the source code together with the binaries (some people even think that you have to force the source code on the person you are giving the binary in order to obey the license), etc.
I know some of that stuff is hard to grasp but then, the GPL has been there for more than a decade and it's not too hard a read.

Re:Just use CDDL then (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14166415)

CDDL was written to address patents. Why bother writing yet-another-license?

New & Improved! (-1)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14166196)

Extra viral edition, now with twice the communism!

Why was this categorized as Linux? (1)

carlos92 (682924) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166201)

This is relevant to free software in general, and is not restricted to Linux!

Re:Why was this categorized as Linux? (1)

panthro (552708) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166264)

What a punch in the nuts for GNU, too... the FSF starts drafting a new GPL, and it's categorized as "Linux" (not even "GNU/Linux") on Slashdot.

We don't need Microsoft to create "FUD" (4, Insightful)

CyricZ (887944) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.

Yay for communism! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14166324)

How about focusing less on communism and more on protecting the rights of individual programmers? Some of us have no problem giving back to the community (corporate or otherwise) so long as our rights are protected; this does not necessarily imply we should be trampeling all over commercial use or that "corporations are evil". Just my 2 cents.

Re:Yay for communism! (1)

John Nowak (872479) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166400)

Just keep your two cents to yourself -- The Party will take it later when they need it anyway.

GPLv3 should bing a provision on fork limitation . (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14166325)

something like, forking is allowed if a patch is refused by the "current running team".

I am not sure how this should be setup, but the idea is that if we manage to limit the forks numbers without compromising the opensource goals, then the might be the killer thing.

The reason for me is that it is always easier to fork than to advocate to an existing team for some change. But the overall benefit for the community of this is less than if the change was integrated into the mainstream development....

GPL v3.1 (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14166363)

I'll wait for GPL v3.11, License for Workgroups.

This is de facto IP law reform (1)

fuzzy12345 (745891) | more than 8 years ago | (#14166491)

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.

How does GPL work in practive? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14166502)

No, I'm not asking what it means. I'm asking how the GPL notice works in the case of a derived work based on GPL'd code. I couldn't find any examples of this anywhere. I asked someone at a FSF booth at a computer expo once and they had no clue.

I use the historical license on my FOSS stuff because, and this may come as a shock to the FSF weenies, the historical license actually has clear and explicit instructions on how it is applied to a derived work (basically you have to keep and not modify the original notice, you can only add stuff). Now why would I want to use a license from someone who is so inarticulate they can't even give instructions on how to apply their license?

I'm sure there's no shortage of opinions on how GPL notices actually work but I doubt anyone will be able to cite any authoritative references. You know, the IANAL bit.

NYTimes' take... (2, Informative)

veg_all (22581) | more than 8 years ago | (#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.
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