May 9, 2007 5:48 PM PDT

GPL likely to regain Apache compatibility

SAN FRANCISCO--In a significant change of course, the Free Software Foundation is working to make the upcoming version 3 of the General Public License (GPL) compatible with an alternative, the Apache License.

"I think a final change we'll see for the release of GPL 3 will be that compatibility," said Free Software Foundation Executive Director Peter Brown in a panel discussion Tuesday at Sun Microsystems' JavaOne conference here. The Apache License compatibility had been removed as a result of an "11th-hour" decision before release of the third draft of GPL 3.

Compatibility among licenses permits greater sharing of code rather than separate islands of open-source software. Different licenses can impose different, sometimes conflicting requirements and restrictions. For example, the GPL requires that any changes made to software be made public as soon as software incorporating those changes is distributed, but the Apache License permits open-source code to be incorporated into proprietary software with changes hidden.

The Free Software Foundation, which originally created the GPL and is overseeing its overhaul, originally intended GPL 3 to be compatible with the Apache License, said Cliff Schmidt, vice president of legal affairs for the Apache Software Foundation. That the compatibility was removed appeared to be a result of dealing with so many issues and organizations, he said.

Now the two foundations are hammering out details of the license compatibility, Schmidt said during the panel discussion. "The two organizations are working together to make this happen," he said.

Even with license compatibility, though, constraints of the GPL mean it only will be permissible to move open-source code from Apache License projects to GPL projects, Schmidt said in an interview. That means, for example, that Sun's open-source Java project, OpenJDK, could dip from the Apache Harmony pool but not vice versa.

Ian Murdock, Sun's chief operating systems officer, said many open-source projects are separate, so the license issue doesn't crop up. "I don't think software licenses matter as much as they used to," he said.

But in some cases--such as the differing licenses covering Linux and Solaris or covering Sun's Java and the Apache Harmony equivalent--different licenses prohibit cross-pollination and sharing among similar projects.

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Apache Software Foundation, GPL, GPL 3, Free Software Foundation, compatibility

2 comments

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You Mean Downward Compatible?
You have a very strange idea of compatibility, where GPL communities can freely steal from Apache, but deny Apache communities reciprocal privilege.

Fundamentally, the difference between these "licenses" is that GPL is a quasi-religeous movement that tolerates (embraces?) closed communities and dictates the socialistic views of a few Cambridge ultra-liperals, where Apache enforces open communities.

I actually applaud GPL3...it spells the beginning of the end of GPL, which is WAY over due.
Posted by avanabs (13 comments )
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totally misleading headline
GPL has never been compatible with the Apache license, so it
could not possibly "regain" such compatibility.

Further, if GPL3 was to become compatible with the Apache
license that would mean you could use GPL3 licensed code
within an otherwise Apache licensed project and release the
whole under the Apache license.

What the article is talking about is the opposite: making the
Apache license compatible with GPL by allowing Apache licensed
code to be converted to GPL.

To ilustrate this, the (revised) BSD license is compatible with the
GPL but the GPL is not compatible with the BSD license. You
can't use GPL licensed code in a BSD licensed project and release
it under BSD terms, but you can use BSD licensed code in a GPL
licensed project and release it under GPL terms.

It would seem to me that a little less emphasis on eye-catching
headlines and a little more emphasis on journalist
professionalism would do CNet News well.
Posted by balooh (37 comments )
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