June 29, 2007 10:43 AM PDT

Free Software Foundation releases GPL 3

After 18 months of sometimes inflamed debate, the Free Software Foundation on Friday released version 3 of the General Public License, a highly influential legal document that embodies the principles of the free- and open-source programming movement.

The new license adjusts to software industry changes that have arisen in the 16 years since the foundation's founder and president, Richard Stallman, released GPL 2. One of the biggest changes: the free- and open-source programming movement has been transformed from an academic, legal and philosophical curiosity to a powerful force in the commercial computing industry.

Among those giving the new license a warm reception are IBM, dominant Linux sellers Red Hat and Novell, and open-source database seller MySQL.

"GPL 3 code will be flowing from IBM...We'll tell our customers we're fine with it," said Dan Frye, vice president of IBM open systems development. "As with any consensus process, you don't get everything you asked for. But we got listened to. What came out is absolutely a commercially viable license."

The text of the new license can be read on a foundation Web page concerning GNU (Gnu's Not Unix), the effort Stallman announced in 1983 to create an operating system similar to Unix but free of its proprietary software constraints. The Linux kernel project, governed by GPL 2, was grafted onto GNU, and the result has been an operating system that's widely used on servers and strongly competitive with Microsoft Windows and Unix.

That popularity meant that countless affected parties wanted a say in the new license, and the foundation assembled many of them into committees to hammer out the new draft.

"These different groups have had an opportunity to find common ground on important issues facing the free-software community today," Peter Brown, the foundation's executive director, said in a statement. The final version is largely similar to the final draft released a month ago.

The big question now is whether the most prominent GPL project, the Linux kernel at the heart of the open-source operating system that often bears the same name, will move to the new license. Linux kernel leader Linus Torvalds has expressed his preference for GPL 2.

The GPL is the most widely used license in the open-source realm. More than 30,000 projects, which is about 66 percent of the open-source projects tracked by the Freshmeat site, use the GPL.

What changed?
The core idea of the license is unchanged: Anyone may see, modify or redistribute the underlying source code of a GPL-governed project. However, anyone who changes and redistributes the software must also publish those changes.

The new license carries several new provisions, though:

• The license carries an explicit patent grant, meaning that any entity that contributes software to a GPL project grants with it a perpetual, royalty-free license to any of the entity's patents that apply to the software.

• A provision to block future deals similar to that struck by Novell and Microsoft, in which Microsoft sells coupons to Novell's Suse Linux Enterprise Server that mean customers don't have to worry about Microsoft patent infringement lawsuits. Under the GPL 3, the foundation argues that all GPL software users will benefit from the Novell-Microsoft deal and others like it: "If you arrange to provide patent protection to some of the people who get the software from you, that protection is automatically extended to everyone who receives the software, no matter how they get it," said Brett Smith, the foundation's licensing-compliance engineer.

• The anti-"tivoization" provision intended to ensure that the owner of a device that uses GPL software can change that software. TiVo personal video recorders use Linux, but the foundation objects to measures that mean it doesn't work if an owner modifies the software. The foundation diluted this provision in recent drafts, but it has remained one of Torvalds' prime objections.

One major possible change that was dropped from earlier drafts was a clause that could have imposed a requirement in some circumstances on those using GPL 3 software for services available over a network such as the Internet. Those using GPL software aren't required to make changes public as long as the software is only used internally, but the proposed provision could have required them to release their internal changes if the programmer who originally created the software requested it.

Eventually, the foundation scrapped the idea, but it's still an issue the foundation is monitoring--particularly in the case of Google, which uses many open-source projects. There will be consequences if those who operate network services abuse the privileges granted by open-source software.

"If you want to protect your business model, you must be model citizens of the environment. If you shrink, political pressure will grow to constrain your rights to secure the rights of everyone else," Eben Moglen, the Columbia law school professor who shepherded the GPL 3 creation and just stepped down as legal counsel for the foundation, said in a May speech. "Upon the behavior of Google much depends."

CONTINUED: Who will upgrade licenses?…
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Patent Granting
FTA: "The new license carries several new provisions, though: (...) an explicit patent grant"

This isn't a new provision of GPL v3. It was already present in GPL v2, look:

"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."

What the new GPL does is only to explain in MUCH more details, and in a lot of legalese, this exact same patent granting mechanism. No matter how longer the new text is, its meaning hasn't changed at all.
Posted by alexgieg (15 comments )
Reply Link Flag
>>>"free- (as in free beer and the fresh air...
... that we breathe) and open-source programming"<<<... Who pays for the design, development and deployment of "free software"? Just how do the bills get paid for the food, housing, clothing, gas, entertainment, vacations.... Come and work for/with us for free!
Posted by Commander_Spock (3123 comments )
Reply Link Flag
That's easy.
Most open source programmers, you'll find, have started projects they've felt would help them in their field of work or current job while others have done it for the sake of doing it and have jobs totally unrelated to what they do in their own time.

It's a bit unfair to ask "how do you pay the bills." It's really none of your business, to say the least.

As a developer of in-house applications using open source, I can honestly say that I appreciate the generosity of all open source programmers (and yes, even the pesky bad attitude ones) because without their expertise in development, I wouldn't be able to do my job.

I'm fairly sure that they all have jobs that pay adequately and if they don't, I'm more than confident that they will have no problem in obtaining one given their level of skill.

Then again, you're a proven idiot.
Posted by `WarpKat (275 comments )
Link Flag
Just How Dumb Are you to use Linux?
What REAL businessman would slavishly develop a new business process or patent and then give it away. A fool that's who. I just have to laugh at it all. It's a truly ludicrous policy. I will never understand socialists--never!!
Posted by WJeansonne (480 comments )
Reply Link Flag
How about....
... some of those like "WarpKat" who feel that anyone who doesn't see things their way (and dare to be different) are idiots for commanding/demanding a fair compensation for their time and effort. Anyway, is it not written/to be found in Marxist Socialist theory that -- to each according to his ability; so then, are these present day dudes' policies worse that those earlier socialist ones or what! They want people to work for free and if they demand compensation for their next big thing then that is very idiotic. Wow!
Posted by Commander_Spock (3123 comments )
Link Flag
GPL/Open Source is not "socialist"
Using and sharing Open Source software is not socialist -- it is simply another way that free people, under the protection of property rights, can cooperate and exchange values to their benefit. I happen to think it is a very benevolent model -- people who contribute nothing are still able to benefit, and those who contribute do not begrudge those who don't.
Posted by baisa (126 comments )
Link Flag
reporter responds: giving patents away
Among some of the highly capitalistic companies that in one way or another have given their patents away to open-source projects are IBM, Nokia, Sun Microsystems, Oracle, Phillips and Sony. So evidently there's a little bit more to the equation that just "socialism."
Posted by Shankland (1858 comments )
Link Flag
One of the most stupid posters, who happens to be a MS paid shill is calling other people stupid and totally mischaracterizing the GPL.

What a shock.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Link Flag
Oh, And Now I Know Why My Tivo Always Crashed!
It used the Linux operating system! I eventually just junked the damn thing and set up a Windows Media PC. It has worked liked a champ ever since.
Posted by WJeansonne (480 comments )
Reply Link Flag
What does the underlying OS have to do with a custom software crashing? I highly doubt the OS crashed, since Linux doesn't work like that, unlike Windows. If the code was written for Windows and still crashed, would you blame Windows too?

BTW. I'm no Linux fanboy. I use and create software for Windows. But to blame an OS for an application that is unstable (assuming it is unstable) is silly. My Media Center 2005 box has had many quirks as well. I don't blame Windows XP for that problem.
Posted by nachurboy (114 comments )
Link Flag
Software for free and charge for service
IBM is a service company. Get all your software for free and pay more for service. Either way people have money and they can pay those companies.

Developement cost is lower since volunteers write the software. Those volunteers get satisfaction since they have the feel that they created something.

The TiVo porvision just creates a little more incompatibilty in the open source software, so people need more consultant to work it out.

Media companies also earns money since there is a good vs evil melodrama to cover.

Bottom line: This is actually a great and profitable business model, and it also give people good entertainment in writing software. This is a win-win situation.
Posted by fc11 (48 comments )
Reply Link Flag
Not totally accurate
You might be surprised at the large number of people that get paid to write GPL code. IBM hires a lot of programmers to write open source code. So does Novell, Google, Sun, Red Hat, etc.

Many people make very good livings writing open source code.

The stereotype of people hacking code for GPL projects after hours is true, but not nearly as prevalent as it is today.
Posted by qwerty75 (1164 comments )
Link Flag
The GPL is a Socialist Policy for a Socialist Movement
Posted by WJeansonne (480 comments )
Reply Link Flag
And, Closed-Source, Illegal-monopolies are a Fascist Policy...

This has been proven, legally, socially, and historically... unlike your asininely-childish assertions about the "GPL", and "Open-Source".

But please, do explain exactly how, preventing consumers from being precluded from access to the inner-workings of the devices they buy... or, developers being prevented from -stealing- the work of others equates to "Socialism".

"Open Source" sounds EXACTLY like TRUE "Capitalism", to me.

"Open Source", means exactly that... you cant simply weld-the-hood SHUT (to the decided disadvantage of all consumers, and an entire -capitalistic- industry).

And, the GPL simply states that you, as a business-interest, cannot just abscond with "Intellectual Properties", created by others, for your own exclusive gain. The new provisions of the GPL are simply an attempt to detail, at a higher-resolution, the limits and expectations which are specifically-designed to protect that aim.

Making money is great. And, Capitalism is an effective means to achieve that end. But, Capitalism does not mean unbridled-greed, or absolute-control by a powerful-few (especially, when those "few" have, repeatedly, proven themselves to be wholly-corrupt, incompetent, and illegally-manipulative).

Heres a little tip... Neither Socialism, NOR Fascism actually works. The result is, inevitably, the same tragic-end for the vast majority of citizens. Our Founding-Fathers figured that out. And, they tried to create a balance between the two extremes. Unfortunately, the forces of greed, and lust for power, never do abate, or rest.

And then, there are always those that mindlessly defend any status-quo, no matter how flawed or destructive. So, I really wasnt expecting an intelligent perspective, or any actual support of TRUE "Capitalism", from you...

I guess Ill just go back to >making-money< by providing Linux-integration, and support, to those businesses that are completely sick-and-tired of the overwhelming problems inherent in the "Closed Source" marketplace.
Posted by Had_to_be_said (384 comments )
Link Flag
WJeansonne, You are a Communist!
This is a free society. I have the right to place restrictions on the way you reuse my code. If I write a word processor, I have the right to let you use the code, or not (It is my code!).

I can give you the right to let other people use the code, or not. If I let you give the code to others, I can require you to put the same restrictions on them as I have put on you.

If you are using other peoples property, you must follow the rules they give you. If you don't like this, you can write your code from scratch or move to China.
Posted by ralfthedog (1589 comments )
Link Flag

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