GPL 3: Coming Saturday?

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Open source community members expect the long-awaited GPL 3 (or at least another draft of it) to be unveiled this Saturday at a Free Software Foundation meeting in Cambridge, Mass.

GPL 3 proponent Bruce Perens told reporters Monday that he would bet that new license will be disclosed at this meeting, although he said he did not know for certain.

Perens hosted a press event to coincide with Novell's Brainshare 2007 kickoff in Salt Lake City.

Some in the open-source world have blasted Novell for its new-found allegiance with Microsoft, which they view as anathema to the open source movement.

Perens also confirmed what has long been rumored -- that the GPL 3 will include provisions that could work to the detriment of Novell as a result of that Microsoft pact.

He later forwarded this statement from FSF's Richard Stallman: [Note: my emphasis added.]

"Free software means software that respects users essential freedoms,
including the freedom to change the software so it does what you wish,
freedom to run it, and freedom to redistribute copies. The denial of
these freedoms is what makes proprietary software unethical. To make
these freedoms a reality, we set out 23 years ago to develop the GNU
operating system, which is the basis of all today's quote Linux
unquote distributions, including that of Novell.

In 1983, a few free programs existed, and unscrupulous middleman
eagerly took them and made non-free modified versions. It was clear
that to deliver freedom to every user we would have to find a way to
defend the users' freedom. The method we developed is the GNU General
Public License. The purpose of the GNU GPL is to ensure that
redistributors of the program respect the freedom of those further
downstream. The GPL defends the freedom of all users by blocking the
known methods of making free software proprietary.

Novell and Microsoft have tried a new method: using Microsoft's
patents to give an advantage to Novell customers only.
If they get
away with scaring users into paying Novell, they will deny users
the most basic freedom, freedom zero: the freedom to run the program.

Microsoft have been threatening free software with software patents
for many years, but without a partner in our community, the only thing
it could do was threaten to sue users and distributors. This had
enough drawbacks that Microsoft has not yet tried it. Attacking in
combination with a collaborator in our community was much more

If nothing resists such deals, they will spread, and make a mockery of
the freedom of free software. So we have decided to update the GNU
General Public License not to allow such deals, for the future
software releases covered by GPL version 3. Anyone making a
discriminatory patent pledge in connection with distribution of
GPL-covered software will have to extend it to everyone.

In the mean time, let's make it clear to Novell that its conduct is
not the conduct of a bona-fide member of the GNU/Linux community.

In his press briefing, Perens said any code now covered by the GPL 2 would continue to be covered under that license, Perens said. Novell's problem would come because core code emanating from the Free Software Foundation (FSF), including the libc, glibc libraries and c compilers will move to GPL 3 and at that point Novell would not be able to use them unless it complied with the new license.

"What happens then is a fork. Novell gets stuck with old technology and the gap will get wider," Perens said.

Trying to summarize what the GPL would say re. Novell, one Linux reporter put it this way: "Hey, Novell! [insert raspberry sound here.]"

Just minutes earlier, across the street, Novell CEO Ron Hovsepian, said he could not comment on the new general public license.

"The GPL 3 is a work in progress so it's inappropriate for me to speculate what would happen there. But given the high sensitivity of the community, it is important to us how the community feels. Novell is very committed to Linux and Linux is a key part of our strategy," he said.

This report was updated Monday afternoon with Stallman's statement.

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