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Drafting GPL3 389

Posted by Zonk
from the version-upgrades-are-hard dept.
johns writes "In an article released yesterday, Eben Moglen and Richard Stallman outline four purposes of the GPL, to explain the guideposts they will use in drafting GPL3: the GPL is a worldwide copyright license, the code of conduct for free software distributors, the constitution of the free software movement, and the literary work of RMS. They also make this commitment: 'The Foundation will, before it emits a first discussion draft, publicize the process by which it intends to gather opinions and suggestions.'"
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Drafting GPL3

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  • by s20451 (410424) on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:15PM (#12780633) Journal
    the code of conduct for free software distributors

    *THE* code of conduct? Not *A* code of conduct? I bet the BSD folks would have something to say about that.
    • free software != open source

      Free software is a GNU thing.
      • The BSD license, both original and modified, are also Free. (source [fsf.org])
      • by Speare (84249) on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:35PM (#12780873) Homepage Journal
        Just because the GNU folks call it "free" doesn't mean it is free in all ways. A GNU license ensures the *user* has the most freedom, and a BSD license ensures the *developers* have the most freedom. In either case, the other group loses some freedom. A GNU license creates a situation where developers cannot merge published code with their proprietary code, while a BSD license creates a situation where some users might not have access to a particular modified variant of the published code.
        • I wrote this [slashdot.org] to address exactly the mistake you are making.

          GPL is not freedom for anyone. It is freedom for the software.
        • A fair non-biased opinion on BSD vs GPL??

          Is that even allowed here?

          I guess after Apple switching to Intel I shouldn't be surprised at anything...
    • by snorklewacker (836663) on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:22PM (#12780730)
      No, the BSD folks will do what they usually do: get things done without stirring up a tempest over the politics, especially that of "who speaks for whom", the precise definitions of "Free Software", and whether a license should or should not fit on a 3x5 card.
      • I'm not sure what, exactly, constitutes "stirring up a tempest" but politics are at the heart of the matter when discussing licensing, certainly when comparing licenses that maintain a commons versus those that never say no. Accusations of this kind often come off as little more than attempts to shut people up without actually framing and defending any substantive issue; hardly discussion worthy of being called "insightful".

        The GNU GPL is the most popular free software license, hence any changes to it wil
    • *THE* code of conduct? Not *A* code of conduct? I bet the BSD folks would have something to say about that.

      The BSD folks usually quickly point out that their license is not a code of conduct for distributors, in contrast to the GPL. It certainly grants more freedom to distributors (and indirectly, less to the end users).
  • That included as one of the basic tenets of a 'Free Software License' for international distribution is the requirement that one person be honored / deified / whatever as its creator?

    Not to pick a fight, or demean said person, but it just seems a little.... Yeah. Anyone else get what I'm trying to say?
    • Yes, completely. He's ranking the fact it's his 'Literary Work' right next to 'The GPL is the Code of Conduct for Free Software Distributors'. He obviously has a bit of an ego problem.
  • by nuggz (69912) on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:17PM (#12780663) Homepage
    What problem will v3 solve?

    Unless there is some sort of benefit, why would anyone use it?
    • by Spy der Mann (805235) <spydermann@slashdot.gmail@com> on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:21PM (#12780709) Homepage Journal
      GPL v2 doesn't specifically address the patent problem. Anyway, here's the story on Revising the GPL [slashdot.org].
      • If a GPL program implements a patented procedure two things can happen.

        1. The patent holder does not grant a licence to use and distribute it. The GPL software can not be distributed.

        2. The patent holder does grant a license to use and distribute. The software can be redistributed and used.

        What is the problem?
        • What is the problem?

          Two issues. First, the present wording needs to be a little more explicit when it comes to patents. Technically, most people reading the relevent part of the GPL would come to the conclusion that a patent holder cannot distribute a GPL'd program without agreeing to license, by implication, any patents covering the same program. Such a license would only apply to the program in question and direct derivations though that continue to use the same code. So if someone rewrites the code

          • a patent holder cannot distribute a GPL'd program without agreeing to license, by implication, any patents covering the same program.
            Yes

            Such a license would only apply to the program in question and direct derivations though that continue to use the same code.
            Yes

            So if someone rewrites the code that the patent covers, writing new code that infringes the patent, the situation is legally ambigious.
            Yes again, however the granter of the patent license has given permission to modify and redistribute the
    • by Albanach (527650) on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:46PM (#12780977) Homepage
      There is a problem in GPL v2 that the 'share clause' only comes in to effect with redistribution. Many GPL licensed programs are developed for betwork use. As such, an individual, or company can take the software, modify it then use it commercially with hundreds or thousands of users without ever having to release their changes to the source.

      This has been tackled by the AGPL [affero.org] which will be upwards compatible with GPL v3 - in other words, GPL v3 will have a clause that requires release of the source code as soon as a program is used outside an organisation, not just when the program itself is distributed.

      It will, I think, still be possible for an organisation to make changes to software that remains internal without releasing the changes. In other words, the distribution takes effect as soon as the program is made available for use to an outside party.

      • Feature not a bug (Score:3, Insightful)

        by nuggz (69912)
        The key feature of the GPL is that it is ONLY a distribution license, not an usage license (EULA).

        A key idea behind free software is "use for any purpose". Usage restrictions of any type are a bad idea.
      • Making a change like that will _seriously_ harm the GPL.

        There are laws in place to prevent unauthorized copying of a work, but there are no laws in place to prevent unauthorized use of a work when the work is given away freely.

        The GPL's foundation is on Copyright, and that's where it needs to stay. The GPL should _ONLY_ cover copying, and not use. Consider that the recipient and user of a GPL'd work is not required to agree to the terms of the GPL, since they did not sign any document indicating agr

  • Older versions? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Poromenos1 (830658) on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:18PM (#12780668) Homepage
    Will programs under the older versions of the license automatically fall under v3, or will the author have to explicitly state that? The license isn't very clear (at least not to my non-lawyerish eyes).
    • If they make any changes, no they won't.
      If v3 removes a restriction on v2, or adds a further restriction, it would be incompatible.

      That being said many people have licenced their code under "GPLv2 or any later version".
    • Re:Older versions? (Score:3, Informative)

      by egypt_jimbob (889197)

      Most GPLd software has the phrase "or, at your option, any later version". However, some state explicitly that only a specific version applies. For example, WARNING: hping2 is covered *ONLY* by GPL version 2, and *NOT* any others.

      So it's really up to the author.

  • What happens with deceased people's code? Will I inherit granny's 200,000 lines of code? What do I do then? Will GPL 3 address that?
    • by phoenix.bam! (642635) on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:27PM (#12780787)
      This isn't interesting at all! The code granny wrote is covered under standard copyright, just like if she wrote a book and died. Someone would inherit the full copyright. The code released by granny under the GPL is still going to be released under the GPL, nothing about her tragic passing changes anything.

      Maybe the parent was being funny, but certainly not interesting.

    • The heirs receive the copyrights. Unless there's something in the decedent's will, the copyrights to the code will be passed on to the appropriate heir.

      The heir is then free to release the code under any copyright scheme he deems appropriate. However, he is bound by the original licensing of the code (GPL) which has already been granted. He may stop distributing it altogether, or he may stop licensing it under GPL, but the code that has already been distributed under the GPL remains that way.
    • Licenses, by their very nature, being a grant from the "owner" to a nonowner, cannot address issues of ownership.

      That is handled by the various rights and property laws (which include the laws of inheritence), without which there would be no need for a license in the first place.

      The title to Granny's house and car don't address the issue of her death either. Granny was supposed to do that in her will.

      KFG
    • Will I inherit granny's 200,000 lines of code?

      Yes, but you won't get the $10 mil until you debug it;-)

    • What happens with deceased people's code?

      AFAIK the rights get inherited just like anything else. And in principle, after some time the copyright expires and the code gets public domain (in reality, Dinsney & Co. will probably make sure that it doesn't). IANAL however.

      Will I inherit granny's 200,000 lines of code?

      Depends. What did granny write in her last will?

      What do I do then?

      Well, whatever you do with your own code. Except if you have (inherited) any contract concerning that code, of cour

  • Membership (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Cally (10873) on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:20PM (#12780697) Homepage
    This isn't news to those of us who are members of the FSF & ge tthe 'FSF Bulletin' [/smug]

    I recently had a sudden rush of blood to the wallet & in a fit of altruism (or selfish desire for more freedom and cool software) I joined both the FSF and the EFF - both excellent causes and presumably close to the heart of many slashdotters.

    When the "welcome" packages arrived from each I was rather surprised to see the EFF has of the order of ten times more members than the FSF! I'm FSF member #30xx, and the docs say there are 2,1xx active members. The EFF on the other hand has 24K something members.

    Not sure what the moral is, except that I wish more people donated to the FSF. Why not send em $20 [fsf.org] and think of it as a small contribution towards the costs of glibc and gcc, two vital programs without which there'd be no Linux, no BSD and no Apple OS X.

    • I don't belong to the FSF, and I won't give money to them, because I see them as a largely philosophical organization, whose philosophy I don't completely agree with. By the same token I would not give money to a political party that I disagree with.

      It is possible to donate money directly to particular projects, and I would consider doing that. However, GCC is not on the list [fsf.org] of projects that you can support by direct donation ...
    • Maybe it's because hackers care more about stopping other hackers going to prison and getting laws changed than writing software, important as the latter still is?
    • Why not? How about because I disagree with their viewpoints?

      If they had a fund where I could contribute JUST for GCC, that'd be fine... I do appreciate the software that I use almost every day. But I don't want my contribution seen as some political statement by the FSF.

      (I can just imagine them releasing a press release like, "over $200,000 has been contributed towards the GCC project by users! Therefore, the GNU license is the Best Thing Ever and all Intellectual property should be free, Free, Gratis,
    • Re:Membership (Score:3, Informative)

      by linguae (763922)

      Err, BSD doesn't use GNU libc (BSD has it's own C library), and the only reason why BSD uses gcc instead a BSD-license compiler is because when the original BSD developers decided to rewrite all of the AT&T code, GCC was already available, and I guess the BSD developers didn't feel like rewriting pcc (the compiler that shipped with AT&T Unix). I believe, looking at some old BSD source lists, that the BSD developers dropped pcc when the Net/2 release came out.

      And with TenDRA [tendra.org] becoming better each ye

  • 1 of the 4 listed purposes of the GPL is "The GPL is the Literary Work of Richard M. Stallman" (which explains how the glory of Stallman is the lighting beacon of freedom). Does this guys ego ever take a break?
    • Are you suggesting the author of a work should not be permitted to put their name on it?

      For F**ks sake, he wrote it, it's his, he can put his name on it.

      You can use it, copy it, distribute it, make fun of it, complain about it, print it out and feed it to gerbils.
      Having the author put his name on it isn't some sort of ego trip, most already do this.
    • It is interesting to note that he maintains the copyright to the GPL license, though. Wouldn't it be more appropriate if the GPL were GPL'd, so to speak?
  • With the growth in free hardware designs [opencores.org] it would be nice if the GPL3 took some note of how it may be applied there as well. There's been a fair amount of debate on how it's inapplicable, which is a shame because many people want to provide their work to the world in this area too.

    It's not so different... writing in verilog, compared to writing in 'C' with lots of concurrent threads, and the thrill of getting a working piece of hardware is far more than coding up a cool algorithm, IMHO of course :-) With t
  • by dduardo (592868) on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:23PM (#12780734)
    All your base belong to us.
  • by Dancin_Santa (265275) <DancinSanta@gmail.com> on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:24PM (#12780746) Journal
    They specify the four pillars of GPL3:

    1) GPL is a worldwide copyright license, 2) the code of conduct for free software distributors, 3)the constitution of the free software movement, 4) and the literary work of RMS

    The problem is that (1) has always been limited by the FSF's unwillingness to translate the GPL into any other language. How they plan to make it an international license without actually translating it ought to be interesting.

    (2) is already pretty much taken care of. You use GPL code in your code and then distribute it, you have to open up your code under GPL conditions. I can't imagine what will change.

    I'm not sure what they plan to get out of (3). The GPL is the General Public License. It may be drafted by the FSF, but it is intended for broad usage by many different people. If they want to have a constitution, they ought to make one, for their organization. Trying to pretend like their organization represents the entire movement is silly and pure hubris.

    As for (4), who cares except for RMS what literary works he's published? More hubris.

    It seems that like the Perl camp, the FSF can't leave good enough alone and is slowly imploding under the pressure of their own navel gazing.

    GPL 2.0 is fine and clear. GPL 3 looks to be an FSF circle jerk in honor of RMS. Count me out.
    • Yeah, RMS should definately step back a bit and GPL the GPL.

      Now that's what I call iteration.
      • Bear with me. I'm pretty sure it's worth it.

        The GPL is for source code, not documentation. The license is more documentation than source code, even though it is present within the source code.

        With this in mind, a more appropriate license would be the FDL. Since it is also authored by the FSF, I think it is reasonable to make the assumption that should the FSF make the GPL available under an F/OSS license, it would choose the FDL.

        What would be particularly ironic about this is that the Debian project has
    • If FSF translates the license, the translations may have subtle differences from the main license and thus make them incompatible. The language of the license, especially a widly understood language like english, does not hinder its enforcement in non-english speaking courts.
    • I'm not sure what they plan to get out of (3). The GPL is the General Public License. It may be drafted by the FSF, but it is intended for broad usage by many different people. If they want to have a constitution, they ought to make one, for their organization. Trying to pretend like their organization represents the entire movement is silly and pure hubris.

      You seem to be forgetting that RMS is the free software movement. He is its Lord and Savior, its High Regent, its Most Exalted One, its Glorious Heav
    • GPL 2.0 is fine and clear. GPL 3 looks to be an FSF circle jerk in honor of RMS.

      Did you miss the fact that GPLv2 is the *GNU* General Public License? The GPL was written by and for RMS and the FSF, so it shouldn't surprise anyone that GPLv3 will be the same.

      Of course, lots of other people decided that RMS' license was a really nice one, and decided to use it. The FSF clearly expects that the same will likely happen with GPLv3, and they think that's a good thing, so they plan to solicit input. Neve

    • WRT 3 you forget that the FSF started the whole movement. They have a legitimate claim to be the heart of the free software movement.
    • As for (4), who cares except for RMS what literary works he's published? More hubris.


      First of all, this isn't about literary works that he's published. If you read the article, you would know that he is simply making the statement, "As the original concept creator and GPL author, and the largest reason it is around today, I am concerned about its future and want to make sure its meaning is intact".

      Second of all, millions of people care about this one literary work that he's published, which is the GPL.
    • I'm not sure what they plan to get out of (3). The GPL is the General Public License. It may be drafted by the FSF, but it is intended for broad usage by many different people. If they want to have a constitution, they ought to make one, for their organization. Trying to pretend like their organization represents the entire movement is silly and pure hubris.

      Nice troll! But of course the FSF is a perfect, 100%, 1:1 representation of the community... the community of FSF members. The FSF has published a

  • by Lord Bitman (95493) on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:35PM (#12780868) Homepage
    I think there should be customizable skins, those make everything better.
  • My Suggestion (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Milo Fungus (232863) on Friday June 10, 2005 @12:36PM (#12780880)

    Make sure that GPL3 is human-readable, as version 2 was. I absolutely hate reading legalese. It really bothers me that so many important things in my life (such as student loans, credit cards, computer software) assume that I am capable of understanding, and hold me accountable to understand the contents of legal documents. I appreciate the simplicity of the GNU GPL, and consider it an essential feature of the license. The BSD license is even simpler.

    <tangent>One thing that bothers me is when GPL software requires that you agree to the license during the install procedure. The GPL is not an end-user license; it is a distribution license. You must accept and comply with the terms of the license if you wish to redistribute GPL'ed works. End users are not required to agree to anything in order to simply use it, or even to modify it for their own use.</tangent>

    • The GPL must be written for lawyers and The Courts, not you. That is who will enforce or reject it. Having a separate document explaining the GPL in simple terms is fine, like what creative commons does. However the GPL should not be human-readable, non-legalese or simplified down. It must be written as a valid and binding legal document.
      • Rubbish. Why should a "valid and binding" legal agreement have to use obtuse language? Did the human-readability of GPL2 make it somehow less binding or valid? Is it okay to violate the BSD license because it's only a few sentences long, and doesn't even have a DEFINITIONS section?

        The GPL must be written for lawyers and The Courts, not you.

        You're wrong. Part of the strength of the Free Software movement is the simplicity and elegance of the GPL. Any developer who wants to use the license can easily

        • Why should a "valid and binding" legal agreement have to use obtuse language?

          Because that's how the legal system works. It's been crafted in a formalized way over the course of centuries. If you don't like it, you have to change the system of law. Besides, contracts are not written in Latin or anything like that. They do have to be understandable to a certain extent, and I've yet to find a contract at the consumer level that couldn't be easily understood just by reading it. They look scary but aren'
    • True, however the majority of software installations have the users clicking through boilerplate TERMS AND CONDITIONS and explicit denials of FITNESS FOR PURPOSE, whereas the GPL opens up with a friendly preamble.

      I think that might, just might, cause a few people to actually read it, and become aware of the motivations of the Free software movement ... if even one person does, isn't it worth the inconvenience of an extra click?

      (I also note that the copyright on the GPL itself [gnu.org] only allows verbatim copying,
    • Make sure that GPL3 is human-readable, as version 2 was. I absolutely hate reading legalese.

      I think it will be human-readable. Even if Moglen etc. didn't have readability as a goal (and I've read that RMS is adamant that it be both readable and brief), the fact that they want it to be an international license pretty much requires that it not be written in legalese, because legalese varies from one legal system to another.

      In order to make it enforceable in courts around the world, the best thing they

  • Holier Than Thou (Score:2, Insightful)

    by aCapitalist (552761)
    It's not just a liicense, it's a "constitution" and a "literary work".

    It's not about free sotware, it's all about Stallman.
  • I'm seriously looking forward to what will propably be the flamewar of the decade. Millions of lines of code and thousands of coders will be directly affected by this, and they will all have they own opinions on where the license should go.
  • "23(a): Permission for all uses of this copyrighted work are granted to Microsoft Corporation (new sponsors of the Free Software Foundation), and they are exempt from all requirements in this licence agreement."

    This may cause disquiet among developers who used the "either version 2 of the License, or (at your option) any later version." clause.
  • by spitzak (4019) on Friday June 10, 2005 @02:25PM (#12782136) Homepage
    Yes, I know RMS does not like this idea. But there does seem to be a lot of interest in making an "LGPL" that works the way users expect. In particular this means that you can statically-link with the library and release a closed-source version of the resulting program. Yet unlike the BSD license, you are not allowed to modify the library itself without releasing your modifications.

    This license serves two purposes: first it makes your library much more popular. And it should be very good for algorithims like OGG that want to be used by closed programs, by eliminating the risk of an incompatable and secret fork.

    Searching around I have seen many dozens of "exceptions to the GPL" to accomplish this, indicating that there are a lot of developers that want this. A standardized version would be very useful, with a name as recognizable as "LGPL" and "BSD".

    Attached is my version, which is based on wxWindows. Paragraph 2 is changed to make it clear that you must release changes to the library itself.

    Comments, anybody? What are the chances of an official version of this? As far as I can tell, the desire for this is the main force behind license proliferation.

    1. As a special exception, the copyright holders of this library give
    permission for additional uses of the text contained in this release of the
    library as licenced under the FLTK Library Licence, applying either version 2
    of the Licence, or (at your option) any later version of the Licence as
    published by the copyright holders of version 2 of the Licence document.

    2. The exception is that you may use, copy, link, modify and distribute, under terms of your own choice, any works based on the library (including static linking), provided that the creation of this work does not require the modification of any of the source code of the library.

    3. Modifications to the source code of the library do not fall under this
    exception. However you may distribute the modified library under the normal
    terms of this license and then distribute a work using this modified library
    using this exception.

    4. If you copy code from files distributed under the terms of the GNU General
    Public Licence or the GNU Library General Public Licence into a copy of this
    library, as this licence permits, the exception does not apply to the code
    that you add in this way. To avoid misleading anyone as to the status of such
    modified files, you must delete this exception notice from such code and/or
    adjust the licensing conditions notice accordingly.

    5. If you write modifications of your own for this library, it is your choice
    whether to permit this exception to apply to your modifications. If you do
    not wish that, you must delete the exception notice from such code and/or
    adjust the licensing conditions notice accordingly.
  • by Ancil (622971) on Friday June 10, 2005 @02:45PM (#12782384)

    Stallman: Free and open scientific research is the only ethically satisfactory context for the conduct of biology.
    Wow, someone should tell all the scientists I work with at this pharmaceutical company.

    "Guys, turns out we can just give everything away! Those protein mass spectrometers we just paid $90,000 apiece for -- yeah, we'll just get those for free from now on. Someone will donate them, or something."

    Turns out that by trying to make money off our discoveries, we were acting unethically! Who woulda thunk it?

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