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GPLv3 Draft Today and a New Legal Resource - Update: it's released
Wednesday, March 28 2007 @ 07:57 AM EDT

I do expect the draft of the GPLv3 today. Naturally, I'll let you know the second I know.

[Update: The third discussion draft of GPLv3 has been published by the Free Software Foundation. The new draft and its accompanying rationale document [PDF] are available at and there are other GPL resources on Groklaw's GPL page. So the discussion begins. There is also a press release, highlighting the changes, and I'll put it at the end of this article. Note that this is a draft, which will be discussed for 60 days and then there will be a final draft after that.]

Meanwhile, for those who think GPLv2 is silent about patents, here's an article by two attorneys at Fenwick & West on the tantalizing topic, "Potential Defenses of Implied Patent License Under the GPL" [PDF].

GPLv2 restricts patents?? Yup. The attorneys, Adam Pugh and Laura A. Majerus, thought it was useful, indeed necessary, to try to figure out what GPL-protected folks could do if accused of patent infringement. So they wrote an article about the hypothetical situation where an entity releases software under the GPL and then tries to sue a recipient for patent infringement.

There indeed *is* an implied patent license in GPLv2, which will be make explicit in GPLv3, and that is why the article addresses the issue:

The previous issue of this Bulletin ... included an introductory article, which discussed whether open source and patent rights can coexist. In general, patent rights may be substantially limited due to an implied license when the target infringing activity is cover by the GPL.

They wrote that about GPLv2. So if you think no one should use a software license to address patents, the GPL already does, my friends. So please don't waste my time placing that thought in a comment on the draft. Read this article instead. That's why the Novell-Microsoft patent deal sticks in the community's craw, and why I personally doubt it is harmonious with GPLv2. I think that Eben Moglen just found an easier way to block it than through litigation. If you've followed the SCO Magical Mystery Tour, where after four years, we still don't know what it's actually about, you may be able to figure out why it could be easier and cheaper to just fix the license to make things crystal clear.

The article discusses four doctrines of implied license, legal estoppel, equitable estoppel, conduct and acquiescence. Regarding the first, legal estoppel, which just means you can't grant a legal right and then snatch it away, the article says:

In the hypothetical case above, the accused infringer has an argument that the elements of legal estoppel are met. Through the GPL, the patentee has granted the accused infringer the right to make and distribute the invention. While usage rights may not be explicitly granted under the GPL, it can be argued they are necessary to effectively practice the rights that have been granted. Both the right to practice the invention (through the GPL) and an attempt to derogate that right (by claiming the licensee has no right to use the licensed invention) are present.

Satisfying the legal estoppel theory also requires showing that the licensor received valuable consideration for the license. One possible item of consideration received under the GPL is the reciprocity agreement -- the promise by the licensee to license any further distribution of the program and any works based on it under the terms of the GPL. In Wang, the proliferation of the plaintiff's technology and adoption of it as an industry standard were enough to form consideration under legal estoppel. The licensee may be able to argue that the benefits any licensor receives from agreeing to comploy with the licensee form sufficient valuable consideration to imply a license by legal estoppel.

Let's imagine, for a moment, that Novell, instead of being a GPL bumbler, turned out to be a Ninja. Then the fact that Microsoft was persuaded to distribute vouchers for SUSE, which is distributed under the GPL, might be a way to tie their hands. It could be argued, as I understand the article to be indicating, that you could argue that Microsoft can't help distribute SUSE and then sue over folks using it. N'est-ce pas? And that would be entirely separate from any patent peace nonsense. And Novell helping Microsoft make Open XML a standard might, in Ninja land, be a way to force it to lose its patent rights.

However, you'll note the article repeatedly says that these are possible defenses, that it *might* work to plead so and so. GPLv2 is only an implied license. GPLv3 will be explicit.

I found all this in a wonderful new resource, Litilaw, which publishes free legal articles on a broad range of topics. I found this particular article on the list on their Intellectual Property page. If you are a lawyer, you can add your article to their collection, by the way, of "hundreds of recently published articles of interest to litigators and related legal professionals. All articles are full-text, written by lawyers and have been published as part of continuing legal education (CLE) seminars, in legal journals, or are of similar quality." Enjoy!

And, yes, I was only kidding about what you can say. You can express your thoughts about GPLv3 here, by all means. But I do want you to know the reality, which is that there is indeed an implied patent license in GPLv2.

Update: Novell's position.

Update: Here's the FSF press release, which explains the draft process going forward and highlights changes in this draft:


BOSTON, Massachusetts, USA---Wednesday, March 28, 2007---The Free Software Foundation (FSF) today released the third discussion draft for version 3 of the most widely used free software license, the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL).

Today's draft incorporates the feedback received from the general public, official discussion committees, and two international conferences held in India and Japan. Many significant changes have been made since the previous draft, released in July 2006. In recognition of this fact, the FSF now plans to publish one additional draft before the final text of GPL version 3.

Changes in this draft include:

* First-time violators can have their license automatically restored if they remedy the problem within thirty days.

* License compatibility terms have been simplified, with the goal of making them easier to understand and administer.

* Manufacturers who include the software in consumer products must also provide installation information for the software along with the source. This change provides more narrow focus for requirements that were proposed in previous drafts.

* New patent requirements have been added to prevent distributors from colluding with patent holders to provide discriminatory protection from patents.

Richard Stallman, president of the FSF and principal author of the GNU GPL, said, "The GPL was designed to ensure that all users of a program receive the four essential freedoms which define free software. These freedoms allow you to run the program as you see fit, study and adapt it for your own purposes, redistribute copies to help your neighbor, and release your improvements to the public. The recent patent agreement between Microsoft and Novell aims to undermine these freedoms. In this draft we have worked hard to prevent such deals from making a mockery of free software."

Today's draft will be open for discussion for sixty days. The FSF will solicit input in a wide array of public venues and make changes as needed in response. After this period, it will release a "last call" draft, followed by another thirty days for discussion before the FSF's board of directors approves the final text of GPL version 3.

More information about this draft is available at, including the full text, detailed explanations of the latest changes, and new plans for finalizing the license. As with the previous drafts, the FSF encourages community members to provide feedback on the new draft at this site.

About the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL)

The GNU GPL is the most widely used free software license worldwide: almost three quarters of all free software packages are distributed under this license. It is not, however, the only free software license.

Richard Stallman wrote the version 1 and 2 of the GNU GPL with legal advice from Perkins, Smith & Cohen. Version 1 was released in 1989, and version 2 in 1991. Since 1991, free software use has increased tremendously, and computing practices have changed, introducing new opportunities and new threats. In 2005, Stallman began revising the GPL for version 3. In January 2006, the FSF began a systematic process of public review and feedback, with legal advice and organizational support from the Software Freedom Law Center.

About the GNU Operating System and Linux

Richard Stallman announced in September 1983 the plan to develop a free software Unix-like operating system called GNU. GNU is the only operating system developed specifically for the sake of users' freedom. See

In 1992, the essential components of GNU were complete, except for one, the kernel. When in 1992 the kernel Linux was re-released under the GNU GPL, making it free software, the combination of GNU and Linux formed a complete free operating system, which made it possible for the first time to run a PC without non-free software. This combination is the GNU/Linux system. For more explanation, see

The GNU components in the GNU system will be released under GPL version 3, once it is finalized. The licensing of Linux will be decided by the developers of Linux. If they decide to stay with GPL version 2, then the GNU/Linux system will contain GNU packages using GNU GPL version 3, alongside Linux under GNU GPL version 2. Many other packages with various licenses make up the full GNU/Linux system.

About Free Software and Open Source

The free software movement's goal is freedom for computer users. Some, especially corporations, advocate a different viewpoint, known as "open source", which cites only practical goals such as making software powerful and reliable, focuses on development models, and avoids discussion of ethics and freedom. These two viewpoints are different at the deepest level. For more explanation, see

The GNU GPL is used by developers with various views, but it was written to serve the ethical goals of the free software movement. Says Stallman, "The GNU GPL makes sense in terms of its purpose: freedom and social solidarity. Trying to understand it in terms of the goals and values of open source is like trying understand a CD drive's retractable drawer as a cupholder. You can use it for that, but that is not what it was designed for."

About The Free Software Foundation

The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users' right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as in freedom) software---particularly the GNU operating system and its GNU/Linux variants---and free documentation for free software. The FSF also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of freedom in the use of software. Its Web site, located at, is an important source of information about GNU/Linux. Donations to support the FSF's work can be made at Its headquarters are in Boston, MA, USA.


GPLv3 Draft Today and a New Legal Resource - Update: it's released | 383 comments | Create New Account
Comments belong to whoever posts them. Please notify us of inappropriate comments.
Corrections Here
Authored by: entre on Wednesday, March 28 2007 @ 08:03 AM EDT

[ Reply to This | # ]

GPLv3 Draft Today and a New Legal Resource
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 28 2007 @ 08:05 AM EDT
So are you saying that by getting MS to distribute Linux in exchange for a
clause about intellectual property rights that no-one except MS and SCO think
exist in Linux Novell have managed to get MS to a place where they are seriously
encumbered from attempting to do a SCO on Linux?

[ Reply to This | # ]

Off Topic
Authored by: Winter on Wednesday, March 28 2007 @ 08:09 AM EDT
Please post anything Off Topic here.

Use clicky link, please.

Some say the sun rises in the east, some say it rises in the west; the truth
lies probably somewhere in between.

[ Reply to This | # ]

they used the wrong example, it should have been the other way
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 28 2007 @ 08:14 AM EDT
That's all fine and wonderful, but it doesn't cover the more likely situations.

That is, you (or a company) writes code or makes a product, and releases it
under GPL. all fine and wonderful.

then company X or bad guy comes along and says you are infringing their
patents... on their commercial (NON-gpl) code or product...

so now what? these fancy-pants lawyers never even bothered to look at this
situation for GPLv2. implied licenses are about as useful as the paper they're
(not) written on...

so maybe PJ or someone can ask them about this situation, this is the only REAL
situation anyone would actually care about

and BTW Novell are better Ninjas than you can possibly imagine. Just look at
what they're doing against SCO...

[ Reply to This | # ]

GPLv3 Draft Today and a New Legal Resource
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 28 2007 @ 08:23 AM EDT
While the article was certainly interesting, it was ridiculously long-winded.
Almost all of the content could have been presented in a short paragraph, which
would have made it much more consumable by the masses.

[ Reply to This | # ]

What about Redmond Linux?
Authored by: markpmc on Wednesday, March 28 2007 @ 08:50 AM EDT
flames not welcome. I've already admitted that I used to run Caldera's OpenLinux
product. But there was also a fork of Caldera called Redmond Linux which is now

When the whole SCO vs IBM thing started up, I remember seeing a notice on either
the RL or lycoris websites about how thier users were free and clear of the SCO
mess since they had a 'license' from SCO.

Does this matter?


[ Reply to This | # ]

GPLv3 Draft Today and a New Legal Resource
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 28 2007 @ 08:55 AM EDT
Meanwhile, for those who think GPLv2 is silent about patents

Now, that's a bit of a straw man. Section 7 of GPLv2 explicitly mentions patents and patent licenses. Has anybody been denying that? The mystery is how is can be that Novell aren't violating that, and why we need the GPL3.

The only explanation seems to be if MS haven't actually formally and specifically told Novell what, if any, patents Linux might be violating (recognise the style?) but just said "if there are, we won't sue your customers". Basically, just FUD.

Trying to tweak the GPL to fix that is surely analogous to trying to legally defend yourself against someone who won't actually tell you what they think you've done wrong (hmm, familiar style again!) If it was easy to add a clause to a legal document that says "thou shalt adhere to the spirit of this agreement, whatever the letter says" then the world would already be a nicer place.

What is more interesting is the notion that, by "getting involved" with Linux, MS might have undermined their ability to enforce their patents... We can but hope...

[ Reply to This | # ]

Acceptable uses of licenses
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 28 2007 @ 09:22 AM EDT
So if you think no one should use a software license to address patents, the GPL already does, my friends.

I haven't seen anybody claiming this, although I'm sure somebody somewhere does. My understanding is that:

  • in a perfect world, there would be no software patents;
  • under US law and the laws of some other countries, there is a concept of "implied patent license";
  • not everyone is convinced that the GPL's current or proposed ways of handling patents is The Absolutely Very Best Way (People who wrote a BSD-like license: "Boost's lawyers were well aware of patent provisions in licenses like the GPL and CPL, and would have included such provisions in the Boost license if they were believed to be legally useful"; Kernel developers' position on GPLv3, section 5.3: "As drafted, this currently looks like it would potentially jeopardise the entire patent portfolio of a company simply by the act of placing a GPLv3 licensed programme on their website. ... we find this clause unacceptable because of the chilling effect it will have on the necessary corporate input to our innovation stream.")

No, it won't be possible to please everyone. But it is important to know what the complaints are if you want to try.

[ Reply to This | # ]

GPLv3 Draft is out now
Authored by: Winter on Wednesday, March 28 2007 @ 10:26 AM EDT raft-2007-03-28.html


Some say the sun rises in the east, some say it rises in the west; the truth lies probably somewhere in between.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Software patents and Canada - question
Authored by: lordshipmayhem on Wednesday, March 28 2007 @ 10:30 AM EDT
OK, I'm going to sound uninformed, but can anyone lay out for me what the status
in Canada is of patents on software? AFAIK such a concept as software patents
doesn't exist in the land of the Chosen Frozen, but then up until the 1930's
nobody knew the coelacanth still existed.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Maybe Novell did know what they were doing...
Authored by: veatnik on Wednesday, March 28 2007 @ 10:46 AM EDT
I once commented before that perhaps Novell knew what it was doing in the
agreement with Microsoft. (Although I've also said that it appeared to be a
stupid business move. In fact I am still unsure. but...) I guess this might be
the "perhaps" that I was looking for...

According to the article, equitable estoppel would require a communication
between two parties. Lets look at this to see if the Microsoft - Novell deal
could be reasonably expected to shield a third party from a patent infringement
suit by MS.

Lets start with facts that might be relevant:
1. Microsoft has used Linux internally (in fact they have a Linux lab). This
means that they cannot be ignorant to the terms of the GPL.
2. Novell Uses, develops, and distributes Linux.
3. Microsoft and Novell have entered into an agreement to (among other things)
not sue Novell (Linux) customers for patent issues. Other terms of this
agreement are mostly unknown as the terms of the agreement are not public.
4. We also know that the intent of the MS-Novell agreement was to benefit
interoperability between MS and Linux software systems (as announced by the
joint press release).

I Think we can agree (given the info in the article) that Novell could probably
prevail in court with the equitable estoppel argument.

If I am a third party an get sued by MS for patent infringement related to Linux
I suspect that I can follow this logic in court:
Because MS is a Linux licensee (using Linux) and should have done due diligence
on the agreement made with Novell they must know (or are expected to know) the
content of the GPL v2 license especially with regard to how it would affect the
Novell agreement.

So I plead equitable estoppel because:
If MS prevails against my alleged infringement in this case
by the patent clause in the GPL Novell must stop distributing Linux. This also
would bar Novell customers from using certain GPL granted rights

This is directly contrary to the apparent intent of the MS- Novell agreement
which is suppose to protect those customers . Also it is unlikely that Novell
would have intentionally entered into this agreement if the effect of the
agreement would later bar them from continuing to pursue their business.
(distributing Linux).

So the communication between MS and Novell taken with the requirements of the
GPL (which are know to MS) should bar MS from this action by equitable

If not then this means that MS is able to enter into the agreement with Novell
under the guise of reciprocal benefit and then to deny Novell the benefit that
they expected under the agreement. (They seem to expect to continue distributing
Linux and to continue developing Linux with an eye to improving
interoperability) (This would be a bad faith move by MS and if I have been
reading comments about contract law correctly would be against contract law.)
Microsoft should not have entered into this agreement if they intended to pursue
such patent litigation because to enter the agreement and then later enter into
patent litigation would take away benefits they granted to Novell under the
agreement. They should have chosen either the agreement or the litigation. not

In addition they cannot claim that they did not know there were potential
problems with Linux as Balmer publically claimed there were problems.

In this same time frame Novell claimed that they were very familiar with Linux
internals and that they knew of no infringements. (Can we consider MS to be
aware of Novell's opinion and can we prove MS was aware of it at the time of the
agreement. (Does it even matter?)

The Linux community asked MS to reveal any problems (to allow them to correct
any real issues). There has been no reply. If MS really believed there were
issues why would they ignore an opportunity to correct the issues and to protect
their IP. (Perhaps to do so goes against their current intent (as exhibited by
the Novell-MS agreement). So to all appearances they seem to be changing their
mind if they initiate a suit.)

Seems like MS might not have a leg to stand on.

Perhaps someone with actual legal knowlege could comment.
It looks like a solid case for estoppel to me.

Looks like Novell might have either known what it was doing or lucked out.

Looks like Microsoft was trying to be tricky again but is likely to fail.

Also looks like the GPL v2 isn't so bad (which I've said before.)

[ Reply to This | # ]

Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 28 2007 @ 10:49 AM EDT
Yep. That sums it up.

[ Reply to This | # ]

GPLv3 Draft
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 28 2007 @ 11:08 AM EDT
"We have rejected a suggestion by companies that the patent license grant
should only cover patent claims that read on the “changes” and “additions” that
the contributor has made to a work, perhaps also extending, in some ill-defined
way, to patent claims that are infringed specifically as a result of the
combination of those modifications with the rest of the work."

Fortune 1000 not going to play that tune, I'm afraid.

[ Reply to This | # ]

GPLv3 key requirement and online gaming.
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 28 2007 @ 11:39 AM EDT
Here's an example where the key inclusion requirement would prevent software from being released under GPL.

Let's consider four gentlemen intending to write software for playing Bridge over the net. Oops, gentlemen wouldn't have a problem, they trust each others' word, so let's say they're four Russian hackers intending to play Preference. Or four Italian hackers planning to play Scopone.

They wrote client and server programs. They chose to use GPL as a license for both client and server. The server program is naturally used to deal cards. They entrusted one of them, say Mr. A, to run the server program on his machine.

Now here comes the problem. How can everybody be sure that Mr. A did not modify the server program to deal the cards to his advantage, and/or show him what cards are dealt to other players? Normally, all four would review the code, and then each sign the binary with their key, so the signature is gonna be presented by the server to client programs in order to verify it has not been tampered. Now the following clause in GPLv3 draft specifically requires that all keys are made part of the source:

If the work communicates with an online service, it must be possible for modified versions to communicate with the same online service in the same way such that the service cannot distinguish.

In other words, Mr. A is entitled by the license to request from all other players their private keys used to sign the binary. The whole idea of trusted binary becomes moot.

So again, if the four are Gentlemen, they wouldn't bother with signing the binaries in the first place. But in case of mere mortals, the GPLv3 would prevent them from implementing a trust scheme using digital signatures.

Please correct me if I'm wrong.

[ Reply to This | # ]

RMS and the definition of Freedom
Authored by: aristotle_dude on Wednesday, March 28 2007 @ 02:01 PM EDT
RMS said:
"The GPL was designed to ensure that all users of a program receive the four essential freedoms which define free software. These freedoms allow you to run the program as you see fit, study and adapt it for your own purposes, redistribute copies to help your neighbor, and release your improvements to the public. The recent patent agreement between Microsoft and Novell aims to undermine these freedoms. In this draft we have worked hard to prevent such deals from making a mockery of free software."
Sorry but even though INAL, I believe that Richard Stallman has confused rights with freedoms. I believe that a license can grant rights but not freedoms. The former can be granted by the original copyright holder with varying degrees of limitations whereas the latter is generally understood to be the privy of society or the government to grant. What RMS speaks of are rights granted by a license. To use the word freedom is to confuse the definition of rights and freedoms IMHO.

One final difference between rights and freedoms is that freedoms generally are inalienable save for where exercising such freedom interferes with the rights and freedom of others or places others in danger.

[ Reply to This | # ]

TiVo again
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 28 2007 @ 02:10 PM EDT
Looks like the FSF still wants to be able to dictate the hardware design of
electronics manufacturers who choose Linux. I guess Linux is still staying at
GPL2, since this was Torvalds' biggest sticking point.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Barking up the wrong tree re MS-Novell
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 28 2007 @ 03:04 PM EDT
I have a contrary view of what the MS-Novell deal actually means.

I don't think that it's about MS enforcing patent rights on Unix/Linux users,
despite their FUD to the contrary (full of sound and fury, signifying nothing?).
The article referenced above shows that MS might be on shaky grounds in this due
to the implied license in GPL2.

I think it's all about MS trying to control how non-MS OS's connect to MS
machines. MS knows that the Linux genie is out of the bottle and increasingly
common in the corporate environment. But through secret API's (now being
challenged in Europe)and through patent threats, it's trying to establish on its
own terms how other machines connect to Windows machines. What they're trying to
do is position their servers to be the access points for interoperability.

In order to do this, MS needs Unix technology in order to provide the
handshaking and interconnectivity. This is why they made a deal with SCO in the
first place, supposedly to license this technology.

However, when it became clear to the world that SCO did not hold the copyrights
to the required Unix technology, MS then made a deal with Novell, which
apparently does hold the copyrights.

I don't think that the MS-Novell deal is at all about MS threatening to enforce
MS patents. I think it's about MS licensing Unix technologies in order to corner
the corporate server and interconnectivity market.

They have effectively diverted the OSS community's attention from MS's goals in
the corporate workplace to an internecine war against a leading Linux vendor.

[ Reply to This | # ]

Section 11, para 3, item (1)
Authored by: swmcd on Wednesday, March 28 2007 @ 04:04 PM EDT
Does anyone understand the point of this?

What is the connection between relying on a patent license and publishing the
source code?

[ Reply to This | # ]

comment on 3rd draft of GPLv3
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 28 2007 @ 04:38 PM EDT
I have read the new 3rd draft of GPLv3 and its rational document.

One good thing they have done is not make this draft the "final call" draft. They have effectively slipped the schedule for GPL v3 adding more time for discussion (and possibly revision) of this draft.

The changes they have made are complex enough that they need help from the community to find unintended consequences of this draft before they put it into effect. They are navigating a mine field. It is very difficult to find language that does exactly what one would want it to. This is what lawyers are good for.

No one can say that the FSF did not listen to input or have a full discussion process before adopting a GPLv3. This is smart.

I have read the anti Novell-MS deal provisions. They seem to do what RMS and the FSF would want them to. They are considering grand-fathering existing deals. It is not clear if this will be necessary.

I have always thought the import of the Novell-MS deal is over blown. The deal accomplishes very little. It is basicly a don't make our customers the test case deal. If a patent were found by the courts to be valid all users (including novel's customers) of the infringing free software would eventually have to stop using that software. (Perhaps they could replace that software with non infringing software.) The MS-Novel deal would in the long run have very little effect.

But I can see that deals like the MS-Novell deal could be very much worse and would be bad for free software.

So the anti deal provision is probably a good idea.

Those who lust for revenge against Novell are misguided and they will probably be disappointed.

Remember some of the terms of the deal are still secret.

I would be very surprised if Novell's Lawyers did not include and emergency escape clause that would allow them to waive the deal with respect to a specific software package as needed.

For example, suppose bash adopts gplv3. I bet there is an escape clause that allows Novell to say to MS "OK the deal does not apply to bash anymore; you can now sue our customers who use bash just as if the deal never exited." Then Novell could go on distributing bash.

I do not know that such a provision exits -- You do not know it does not exist, but I do know that if it does not exist then Novell should fire its lawyers.

The existence of the GPLv3 process was known at the time the deal was negotiated, the reaction of RMS and FSF to the deal was entirely predictable.

Novell's lawyers are very smart. I have been monitoring them as they act against SCO. It is probably Novell and not IBM that will get the privilege of administering the coup de grâce against SCO!

Before passion causes everyone to call for Novell's head people should carefully consider: "Do you really want there to be only one commercial FSOSS distributor?" Novell basicly acted in the way cooporations can be expected to act. Finding a loophole wherever possible, just as water flows into every crack as it moves down hill.

[ Reply to This | # ]

I hope we can all pull together on GPLv3
Authored by: barbacana on Wednesday, March 28 2007 @ 04:41 PM EDT

The GPL has been a major factor in the healthy growth of the free software community, and the Microsoft/Novell attack on it is an attack on our roots.

On the one hand, we have the FSF, trying to respond. The FSF is not perfect. The people at FSF are not perfect. But let's make no mistake about one thing: a very large part of the Free Software community depends on the work that FSF is doing.

That's why is really depresses me to see prominent people, mainly Torvalds, bad-mouthing the FSF's effort on GPLv3. Constructive criticism would be useful, and the drafting process has been open to an unprecedented degree. But he doesn't want to be constructive, he wants to throw his weight around and be destructive. Maybe it gives his ego a kick to think he can veto any change in the Free Software world; I don't know. But whatever his reasons, his actions lately have been very harmful. I hope he can still be persuaded to cooperate with the Free Software community, because anyone who doesn't, at this point, is really helping Microsoft in its campaign to destroy that community.

[ Reply to This | # ]

GPLv3 vs. DFSG --- "fields of endeavor"
Authored by: Robert Thau on Wednesday, March 28 2007 @ 05:30 PM EDT

The new draft of the GPLv3 attempts to deal with some of the objections to the DRM provisions in earlier drafts in an interesting way --- it makes those provisions apply only to what it calls "User Products", a class which is intended to be pretty much the same as "consumer products" as defined in a particular American law. The reason, as stated in the rationale document, is that "sometimes ... organizations actually want their systems not to be under their own control." It doesn't give examples, but in Groklaw discussions of prior drafts, Linux kernel developers rattled off quite a few --- it's perfectly reasonable, for instance, for a hospital to want its heart monitors to be running only software certified by the manufacturer, or for a local election board to want its voting machines to be running only software explicitly certified by some responsible party which might or might not be the manufacturer. (And it's commendable that the FSF has shown itself to be more sensitive to these concerns than some of its own defenders on Groklaw).

But this new, more consumer-focused and far more explicitly "anti-Tivo" provision does raise an interesting issue, for at least one corner of the open source community. The Debian Free Software Guidelines require that a free software license not discriminate against "fields of endeavor":

The license must not restrict anyone from making use of the program in a specific field of endeavor. For example, it may not restrict the program from being used in a business, or from being used for genetic research.

The current GPLv3 discussion draft doesn't actually forbid use of GPLv3 software in consumer goods, but it does explicitly restrict that sort of use in ways that other sorts of usage (e.g., in embedded medical systems) are not restricted. That is, consumer goods manufacturers have to abide by a more stringent set of restrictions on redistribution than anyone else.

I'm not sure that this is a bad thing, by the way --- it's new enough that I'm not at all sure what I think of it yet, and I'd like to see what other people have to say before making up my own mind. My point here is simply to note that it's a new thing, to which some purists might object.

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Section 7 (b)
Authored by: tiger99 on Wednesday, March 28 2007 @ 05:36 PM EDT
This is excellent. It really is necessary sometimes for the author to insert a notice that must be kept, for example to avoid problems with the authorities where the code is a driver for a wireless network, and you need to retain a documented prohibition on tampering with the alloted frequencies. Also, on safety-critical work there are any number of situations where notices must be retained, and if you have validated your product against some official standard (maybe an ADA compiler, or something like that), then you can insert a warning that only the "official" version is validated.

Having this provision means that FOSS can go in certain places where it could not before, without reducing anyone's freedom to use or modify the code, as long as they retain the dire warnings or whatever the author has deemed to be necessary. And that is very good for all concerned. It might even encourage me to write some code, one day.....

I am favourably impressed by other aspects of the licence too. It does seem that the long consultation period has been worthwhile, and it's outcome has been rather well combined with emergency action to deal with the Novell/Monopoly problem.

What will be very important is how the kernel developers, and in particular, Linus see this new version. So far, I am optimistic.....

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Linus says he's pretty pleased about GPL3 r3
Authored by: Anonymous on Wednesday, March 28 2007 @ 06:31 PM EDT
By Stephen Shankland of
Torvalds 'pretty pleased' about new GPL 3 draft 0795_3-6171300.html

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GPLv3 plainspeak
Authored by: devil's advocate on Wednesday, March 28 2007 @ 09:18 PM EDT

Is it just me, or does this sound like lawyer's double-talk to you?

When you convey a covered work, you waive any legal power to forbid circumvention of technical measures to the extent such circumvention is effected by exercising rights under this License with respect to the covered work, and you disclaim any intention to limit operation or modification of the work as a means of enforcing, against the work's users, your or third parties' legal rights to forbid circumvention of technical measures.

I get lost with "as a means of enforcing , against the work's users, your or third parties' legal rights to forbid circumvention of technical measures." What does that mean?

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Off Topic - Microsoft keeps detailed files about reporters they deal with.
Authored by: Starlite528 on Wednesday, March 28 2007 @ 10:07 PM EDT
But it seemed clear from the memo that there were close to a dozen other people involved. Some transcribed the interviews I conducted; others kept notes on my every utterance for clues about what questions I might ask next and ultimately what my story would say; others briefed executives with questions I had asked and suggested good answers. Indeed, if you read the memo closely it's clear that my experience with Microsoft on this story was their end game. For something like six months prior they had been plotting to get Wired to write a story about Channel 9 and had dispatched three executives to meet with editors at the magazine in hopes of setting their hook.

"Death continues to be our nations number one killer."
Henry Gibson

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"conveying" and "propagating": what is the difference?
Authored by: Anonymous on Thursday, March 29 2007 @ 10:08 AM EDT
Can any of you explain to me, in clear terms and preferably with examples, what
the difference can be between conveying and propagating a work? Can I convey
without propagating? Can I propagate without conveying?

I am truly lost here.

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