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By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2007-06-01 Print this article Print

GPLv3 prevents further patent deals like the Novell-Microsoft deal, he said, noting that Microsoft made a few mistakes in that deal—mistakes GPLv3 is using against the Redmond, Wash., software maker by extending the limited patent protection given to Novell customers to the whole community. Read here about Microsofts claims that free and open-source software infringe on 235 of its patents.
To take advantage of this, programs need to use GPLv3. "Microsofts lawyers were not stupid, and next time they may manage to avoid those mistakes," Stallman said. "GPLv3 therefore says they dont get a next time. Releasing a program under GPL Version 3 protects it from Microsofts future attempts to make redistributors collect Microsoft royalties from the programs users."
While the FSF believes that the only way to make software development safe is to abolish software patents, and it aims to achieve this someday, a software license is not the way to realize that goal, Stallman acknowledged. What does eWEEK Labs Jason Brooks think about GPLv3? Find out here. "Any program, free or not, can be killed by a software patent in the hands of an unrelated party, and the programs license cannot prevent that. Only court decisions or changes in patent law can make software development safe from patents. If we tried to do this with GPLv3, it would fail," he said. Stallman also said that users will be able to choose whether or not to upgrade to GPLv3 as GPLv2 will remain a valid license and that there will not be a "disaster" if some programs remain under the old license while others advance to the new one. However, the two licenses are incompatible; there is no legal way to combine code under GPLv2 with code under GPLv3 in a single program, since both are copyleft licenses and each says that "if you include code under this license in a larger program, the larger program must be under this license too," he said. "There is no way to make them compatible. We could add a GPLv2-compatibility clause to GPLv3, but it wouldnt do the job because GPLv2 would need a similar clause." But Stallman is convinced that keeping a program under GPLv2 will not create problems and that the reason to migrate is because of the existing problems that GPLv3 will address, such as tivoization—where computers, called appliances, contain GPL-covered software that cannot be changed because the appliance shuts down if it detects modified software. A recent Supreme Court decision challenged software patents. Read more here. "Freedom means you control what your software does, not merely that you can beg or threaten someone else who decides for you. Tivoization is the way they deny you that freedom; to protect your freedom, GPLv3 forbids tivoization. The ban on tivoization applies to any product whose use by consumers, even occasionally, is to be expected. GPLv3 tolerates tivoization only for products that are almost exclusively meant for businesses and organizations," he said. In the area of digital restrictions management, essentially features designed to restrict the use of data in a computer, competition is of no help because relevant competition is forbidden, Stallman said. "GPLv3 ensures you are free to remove the handcuffs. It doesnt forbid DRM, or any kind of feature. It places no limits on the substantive functionality you can add to a program, or remove from it. Rather, it makes sure that you are just as free to remove nasty features as the distributor of your copy was to add them," he said. Check out eWEEK.coms for the latest open-source news, reviews and analysis.

Peter Galli has been a financial/technology reporter for 12 years at leading publications in South Africa, the UK and the US. He has been Investment Editor of South Africa's Business Day Newspaper, the sister publication of the Financial Times of London.

He was also Group Financial Communications Manager for First National Bank, the second largest banking group in South Africa before moving on to become Executive News Editor of Business Report, the largest daily financial newspaper in South Africa, owned by the global Independent Newspapers group.

He was responsible for a national reporting team of 20 based in four bureaus. He also edited and contributed to its weekly technology page, and launched a financial and technology radio service supplying daily news bulletins to the national broadcaster, the South African Broadcasting Corporation, which were then distributed to some 50 radio stations across the country.

He was then transferred to San Francisco as Business Report's U.S. Correspondent to cover Silicon Valley, trade and finance between the US, Europe and emerging markets like South Africa. After serving that role for more than two years, he joined eWeek as a Senior Editor, covering software platforms in August 2000.

He has comprehensively covered Microsoft and its Windows and .Net platforms, as well as the many legal challenges it has faced. He has also focused on Sun Microsystems and its Solaris operating environment, Java and Unix offerings. He covers developments in the open source community, particularly around the Linux kernel and the effects it will have on the enterprise.

He has written extensively about new products for the Linux and Unix platforms, the development of open standards and critically looked at the potential Linux has to offer an alternative operating system and platform to Windows, .Net and Unix-based solutions like Solaris.

His interviews with senior industry executives include Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, Linus Torvalds, the original developer of the Linux operating system, Sun CEO Scot McNealy, and Bill Zeitler, a senior vice president at IBM.

For numerous examples of his writing you can search under his name at the eWEEK Website at


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