September 26, 2006 10:25 PM PDT

FSF rebuts anti-GPL 3 claims

The Free Software Foundation is seeking to counter recent claims of prominent Linux programmers who have argued vehemently against new features in an update of the widely used General Public License.

A foundation statement released Monday labels as "inaccurate information" some criticisms that 10 high-ranking Linux kernel programmers made Friday about the draft of GPL version 3. And Eben Moglen, the foundation's lawyer overseeing GPL 3, urged on his blog Tuesday that those programmers listen to others' opinions as well as issue their own.

"For my colleagues and fellow citizens who develop the Linux kernel, I have nothing but respect," Moglen said. "I ask them please to join the conversation that is going on, to listen to others whose views may not be theirs, and to help the community make the best possible choices about matters of deep common concern."

On Friday, 28 of 29 high-ranking Linux developers polled by leader Linus Torvalds said they shared his overall dislike for GPL 3. And 10 of them wrote a paper that criticized the current GPL 3 draft and urged the foundation to drop it.

The foundation's rebuttal is the latest in a struggle that has divided erstwhile allies in the realm of free and open-source software. The foundation is seeking to update its core license to prevent hardware companies from encroaching on the freedoms central to its mission, but the Linux programmers see the group's action as overstepping its bounds into the realm of hardware.

Digital rights management, technology that encrypts data or software to govern access to it, is one major bone of contention. According to the most recent GPL 3 draft, GPL-governed source code must include "any encryption or authorization keys necessary to install and/or execute modified versions from source code in the recommended or principal context of use." It adds: "The fact that a key...is present in hardware that limits its use does not alter the requirement to include it in the corresponding source."

While the Linux kernel programmers argued that the GPL 3 draft inappropriately imposes restrictions on hardware makers, the foundation said hardware makers must not be permitted to benefit from GPL software freedoms without extending those freedoms to users.

"GPLv3 will prohibit certain distribution practices which restrict users' freedom to modify the code. We hope this policy will thwart the ways some companies wish to "use" free software--namely, distributing it to you while controlling what you can do with it," the foundation said. "Rather, it ensures you, as a user, are as free as they are."

The Linux programmers also expressed concern that a new patent provision in the draft GPL 3 poses risks to corporations' patent portfolios--a concern shared by Hewlett-Packard. The foundation said that interpretation is incorrect.

The GPL 3 "simply says that if someone has a patent covering XYZ, and distributes a GPL-covered program to do XYZ, he can't sue the program's subsequent users, redistributors and improvers for doing XYZ with their own versions of that program," the foundation said. "This has no effect on other patents which that program does not implement."

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7 comments

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Then say so
If the provisions have some specific intent, then state that intent. Far too many problems have occurred because someone presumed one thing but something bad, unpleasant, or the opposite happened as a result. "The road to hell is paved with good intentions."
Posted by rfc1394 (3 comments )
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Precisely
That's exactly what Linus et al. have stated.

GPLv2 tries to establish community.

GPLv3 tries to put some fences on what/how you can apply GPLed code to.

I personally as rule try to avoid thing which try to deter particular things. I prefer things promoting something. And that's precisely why GPLv2 is so good and GPLv3 is going to be struggle for FSF: It's impossible to deter something completely - people would always look for holes to get thru. FSF is going to be on defensive all the time. With license promoting, rather than deterring, it is just hard to go against flow - and few would try to go against it. You do not need defense against them - just help them to find proper direction.

P.S. "erstwhile allies". FSF are lawyers and politicians. Linux - engineers and developers. Hardly any allies. In fact, men are never allied: they just might happen to look and walk in the same direction ;-)
Posted by Philips (400 comments )
Link Flag
Patents
> GPLv3 "simply says that if someone has
> a patent covering XYZ, and distributes
> a GPL-covered program to do XYZ

Precisely. That more or less would nullify all patents of Red Hat and Novell/SUSE - since they ship one hell of GPLed applications doing more or less *everything*.

GPLv3 is not a next corrected version of GPL, it's not successor of GPLv2. It's *completely* *different* and *incompatible* license.
Posted by Philips (400 comments )
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v2 cannot be relicensed under v3
It follows that something under a GPL v 2 license cannot be redistributed under GPL v 3 except by the original author (for which this would count as dual licensing, just as with e.g. the APL). This is because of the GPL v2's clause 6, which in part states: "You may not impose any further
restrictions on the recipients' exercise of the rights granted herein."
Posted by JadedGamer (207 comments )
Link Flag
be sure to read the other side of the story also
This is one of those topics that needs far more discussion. In my case, it has clearly defined the differences between Free Software and Open Source Software movements. Previously I understood F/OSS to be all the same group rather than an amalgamation of two similar mindsets. I've also found myself to be closer to the OSS viewpoint than the FS viewpoint.

For a better understanding, you need to hear from both sides of the debate so take a moment to read over the most recent Torvalds response to the GPLv3 Drama.

<a class="jive-link-external" href="http://trends.newsforge.com/trends/06/09/27/1551253.shtml?tid=147&#38;tid=150" target="_newWindow">http://trends.newsforge.com/trends/06/09/27/1551253.shtml?tid=147&#38;tid=150</a>

The FSF (Free Software) is a political and ideological group concerned with the Holy Four Freedoms of free software. If you can avoid elevating the four freedoms to blind faith religion, they are good ideas when applied practicaly. When you get right down to it, they don't represent free use and open source software, they represent one free software license among many.

The OSS (Open Source) community are those that believe more innovation and stronger code results from free exchange and peer review. You have the source, you can see how it work and make any changes on it you like just return them to the community for further development by others. There job is to develop software not tell hardware vendors what they can't do.

Neither group is right or wrong inherently but both focused on different goals currently braught together for the greater good of addressing "good enough to make a buck" software quality, closed and limiting licenses and the greedware pricess charged for most proprietary software. But this is an ongoing drama over a single license that exists along with many others in the free and open source software realm.

GPLv2 says take the software, do what you like with it, just provide any changed source with it and have a nice day. Software is free (as in speach) so you can run it on whatever you squeeze it into. It also promises that future GPL version will be updates and fixes to the GPL not political tangents and forks.

GPLv3 builds on GPLv2 with the addition of the anti-Tivo clause stating that a hardware vendor who chooses FOSS software must build open hardware to run it on. Sounds great from an end user and code geek side but look closer at this. Where GPLv2 premoted freedom of use, GPLv3 premotes restrictions of use. Sure it'd be nice to force Tivo to allow any code you can compile to run on there hardware but they are not making a general purpose computer. GPLv3 would mean that medical equipment would have to run unvalidated code; do you want your Xray technition recompiling the machine's controling software and accidentily blasing you with 10x the radiation needed for imaging? How about all that real-time computing hardware that keeps people's hearts and lungs pumping in intensive care, that should all be able to run whatever you throw at it regardless of if it breaks the real-time processign responsiveness or not. Phones, Cars, R/C Models.. the list of linux based hardware goes on. The anti-Tivo wording could easily extend to DRM cryptography used for your SSL connections with banking websites, your distributed servers and all the rest of it. This isn't just about what Sammy Homeuser get's to do with there desktop or hacked Tivo box. GPLv2's missing anti-Tivo clause didn't seem to slowdown how fast people hacked the XBox and got something other than Win2k running on it.

As a side note: Tivo is nothing more than a lazy person's solution for what Techie's have been doing since the dawn of the TV-Tuner chip. GPLv3 gives it too much credit and this drama gives it far to much free advertising.

GPL should absalutely premote the free use of software but it has no place addressing the environment that software runs inside. That's like finding out your neighbour drinks milk and emediately walking into there kitchen uninvited to make sure they drink it the same way you do from the same type of cup. Heck, most of the hobbiest challenges are in seeing what you can squeeze the software into and still get it running.

This Tivo clause is really about DRM and towards that discussion; DRM used to restrict the user and software functions is no good (to understate), DRM used to validate software before it runs on hardware is good stuff. The Media and Advertising industry greed machines adding that Big Brother control to what you can do with your legally purchases media represent neither the best interests of the customers or the artist who produce the media. The hardware vendors who have to insure that valid and unmodified software runs on there (in some case, critical for life) machines require the cryptography for authentication just like you do when you hit your bank website through SSL.

Everyone needs to make up there own mind though rather than follow the hype flavour of the week. Read all you can from both sides of the debate (The FSF and the rest of the world) and make your decision with a clear and complete view. Remeber also that anything taken to an extreme becomes a bad thing.
Posted by jabbotts (492 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Freedom isn't sacred
There are a lot of cases where I think people wouldn't want FSF style "freedom"

Take mobile phones, I'd quite like to be able to install an upgraded firmware on mine. But 99.9% of people don't even know what firmware is. Chances are they do know what a virus is and a Tivoised phone would keep them safe. Who is RMS to say no?
Posted by Tortanick (19 comments )
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