CyberTech Rambler

August 4, 2006

GPL version 3 Draft Gossip

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 11:42 am

GPL version 3 Draft 2 discussion is underway. I had a look at the license itself and find it more readable than Draft 1. The clarification on DRM is a significant improvement.  There are some gossip on Internet about it already. Linus Torvald raise the issue on whether the DRM clauses is GPL trying to extend its influence into hardware design. Interesting. I’m sure others, including news sites, will cover this issue more than adequately so there is no point discussing this on this midget blog.

Stephen Shankland reports that Tim O’Reilly believes that websites that is powered by modified GPL software should make the the modification available in his CNet article. One big user of website powered by modified GPL software is Google. This issue is related to the “extending GPL to hardware” question posted by Torvalds as it is “extending GPL’s influence”. Both issues are known for a long time already. If GPL version 3 indeed choose to keep silence on this topic, it is because it choose to, or it believe it is adequatly addressed. Personally, I think the issue might had been addressed under the “Additional Requirment” section of the draft. I am not a lawyer, but I read that section as saying one can combined GPL compatible software with GPL software to power web-facing site. If, however, the GPL-compatible software requires a “download source code” button, the users must satsify the requirement of this button as required by the GPL-compatible software license.

I also note ZDNet’s reporting that “HP may fork the GPL” as it is worry that the act of distributing GPL-enabled software may require it to license patent for the use of that software, eventhough HP did *not* put it in there in the first place. This is a legitimate question. Infringement of patent occurs when the original (third party) contributer put the infringing code into the GPL software. To subsequently force the rights owner to license the patent merely because they distributed them is an act of software terrorism. I think we are venturing into lawyer’s speak here. In fact, if you see HP’s proposed modification of the relevent part of the draft by peppering it with “from you” makes that sections extremely difficult to read and very “legalistic”. Particularly, the added phrase “from you” is defined as “software modified by you” and not the general meaning “software received from you” which is my first read. Thus, not surprisingly, I do not like the way it is worded.

I take issue with HP’s attorney’s comments that having both GPL version 2 and version 3 in circulation is a proliferation of open source license. To support this means there is no way software license, open or closed source license, can be permitted to evolve. To put it in terms that lawyers can understand, it is like saying that because they use an evolves the original contract terms with party A into a new  contract with party B, party A should not be permitted to extend the original license but to use the new license. To do so will be to complicate contract negotiation with A, especially if the original serves both parties well.

As for HP forking GPL, it is too early to say that HP will. First, version 3 is only a draft. Second, whether HP can write their own open source license whenever they like, thus, if they do so, GPL 3 is just a trigger event, nothing more than that. GPL3 is likely to be copyright Free Software Foundation or Richard Stallman and so far, both has not allowed derivative works to be made on the license. True, someone can create a GPL-like license, but it is not generally viewed as a fork, but a mimic. Moreover, to fork GPL license, with exception of a few small niche softwares, is difficult. HP is unlikely to be able to bear the burden of forking all softwares  their customers demands because the original authors ship newer versions in GPL3 or later only.

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