The Free Software Foundation has released a second draft of version 3 of
. This draft incorporates comments made in the first draft,
filtered, of course, by the FSF's goals. The resulting changes tweak some
terms, clarify others, and generally increase the international
applicability of the license. The fundamental nature of the license and
its goals has not changed, however, and quite a few people who disliked the
first draft will have reason to be displeased with this version as well.
Those interested in the details of the changes and why they were made may
want to look at the FSF's
rationale document [PDF].
The term which, perhaps, upset the most people was the anti-DRM provision
requiring recipients to be able to install and run modified versions
of the software. In particular, if GPLv3-licensed software is shipped on a
device which will only run binaries signed by a particular private key,
that key must be provided with the source code. The wording of this term
has changed in the second draft, but its intent has not. It now reads:
The Corresponding Source also includes any encryption or
authorization keys necessary to install and/or execute modified
versions from source code in the recommended or principal context
of use, such that they can implement all the same functionality in
the same range of circumstances. (For instance, if the work is a
DVD player and can play certain DVDs, it must be possible for
modified versions to play those DVDs. 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.)
The FSF, it seems, is serious about not allowing
GPLv3-licensed code to be used on locked-down systems.
The first draft included a term saying, in effect, that any covered
software was not an "effective technical measure" protecting access to
copyrighted work. That term was intended to block use of the DMCA to lock
down systems built with GPL-licensed code. That term has been reworded:
When you convey a covered work, you waive any legal power to forbid
circumvention of technical measures that include use of the covered
work, and you disclaim any intention to limit operation or
modification of the work as a means of enforcing the legal rights
of third parties against the work's users.
The new wording has the same intent, but it is intended to apply to
anti-circumvention laws in other countries (and the EU Copyright Directive
A fundamental term is the one stating that anybody who distributes software
under the GPL, and who owns patents covering some of the techniques used by
that software, is giving the recipients the right to use those techniques.
The first draft expressed this term as an explicit grant of licenses to use
the relevant patents. The second draft, instead, requires anybody distributing
the software to accept a covenant not to assert their patents against users of
the software. The FSF has evidently written a separate opinion document -
not yet published - which describes the reasons for making this change.
The prohibition on distribution of "covered works that illegally
invade users' privacy" has been removed. Evidently, there was a
strong public reaction against this term, so it came out.
The language in the first draft which allowed charging up to ten times the
actual cost for source code distribution is gone. The GPLv2 language,
limiting charges to the "reasonable cost" of shipping the source, is back.
The second draft has added a new term stating that making the source
available for free download (for three years) is sufficient to satisfy the
source distribution requirements of the license. It has also been made
clear that redistribution of a program through a peer-to-peer client (as
happens automatically with a protocol like BitTorrent) does not require
accepting the license and taking on the source distribution requirements.
The language on additional terms has been changed somewhat. There is now
an explicit prohibition on terms regarding who pays attorney's fees,
choice-of-venue terms, arbitration clauses, etc. There is also a clause
saying that, if the software has been received with any disallowed
additional restrictions ("no commercial use" restrictions being given as an
example), the recipient may simply ignore those restrictions.
The first draft of version 3
of the Lesser GPL is also available. The new LGPL is much shorter and
simpler than its predecessor, mostly because it is expressed as a patch to
GPLv3. The intent of the LGPL has not changed much. There are
terms intended to make it possible to run a proprietary application with a
modified version of the LGPL-licensed library, however - including a
requirement that installation keys, if needed, be distributed with the
By the FSF's schedule, the rest of the year will be dedicated to receiving
comments on the new draft of the GPLv3. The FSF has previously said that
it would like to adopt the final version of the new license in January,
2007, and there is no indication that this timeline has changed. There
will be another series of public meetings, with the next meeting happening in
Bangalore, India, on August 23 and 24. Anybody who has opinions
on the drafts, and who has not yet expressed them to the FSF, may want to
do so in the near future or forever hold their peace.
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