New GPL 3 Draft Due Wednesday

patent covenant Microsoft and Novell

The deal threw the open-source community for a loop and delayed the GPL revision process, which was then heading into the home stretch after more than a year of drafting work and discussion. Originally intended to be finalized this month, the GPL 3 went back to the drawing board for another round of revisions.

The third draft, to be posted Wednesday along with a rationale document describing changes, will be open for public comment for 60 days. After that period, the FSF will issue a "last call" draft with a 30-day comment period, and publish the final license soon after.

The GPL 3's formal adoption will have a profound ripple effect on the open-source software space, and could spark a schism among projects with different, incompatible licenses. Linux distributors, in particular, will face headaches: the Linux kernel is licensed only for use under the current version of the GPL, version 2, while GNU operating system components controlled by the FSF will move immediately to GPL 3. The licensing rift is likely to fork key projects at the point of GPL 3's adoption.

The last public draft of the GPL 3 was released in July. The FSF said Monday that it never intended to let so much time pass between drafts, but felt it was important to pause for discussion of key issues such as the Microsoft/Novell deal.

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