Coming Soon to a Kernel Near You: GPL 3

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2005-10-28 Print this article Print

After 15 years, the Free Software Foundation is just weeks away from announcing the roadmap for a rewritten GNU General Public License. Software developers and vendors are eager to know how this significant update to the license will impact the open-sourc

The Free Software Foundation is just weeks away from announcing the roadmap and process that will govern the release of the first draft of the rewritten GNU General Public License. Eben Moglen, the general counsel for the FSF and who is authoring the first rewrite of the license in some 15 years with its creator Richard Stallman, told eWEEK in an exclusive interview ahead of the OSBC East conference in Newton, Mass., next week that it would also be releasing within the next month a process document that tells people exactly what the rules are going to be for the discussion and comment submission process around GPL version 3. Moglen, along with Diane Peters, the general counsel for the Open Source Development Labs and Mike Milinkovich, the executive director of the Eclipse Foundation, will be talking at OSBC East in a session titled "GPL 3.0: Directions, Implications, Casualties."
A number of people will also have been invited to help with the process around GPL 3, Moglen said, adding that the criteria behind that first round of invitations would also be detailed.
"We would like to put all that information out publicly at one time, and we expect this will take place sometime in November," he said. The first draft of GPL version 3 is expected early next year, and while Moglen said the date, place and time of its release would be made public next month, "I want people to absorb the rules we are going to use before we start talking about the substance. "I want everyone to have seen that the process is open, transparent and fair and have gotten used to the rules that are available and how to play them, and then we will put the document down on the table and start talking," he said. Some users agree that the community needs to be as involved in the process as possible. Con Zymaris, the CEO of Cybersource Pty. Ltd., a Linux and open-source solutions company in Melbourne, Australia, told eWEEK that when the FSF produced version 2 of the license, its perceived importance was relatively minor due to the minimal spread of free software and the lack of the key operating system upon which the free software world could be underpinned. "But the GPL is now without doubt the single most important legal instrument in not only the software space but beyond. It has precipitated a sea-change in the understanding and philosophy of intellectual property. It is because of this great importance that the next version of the license has to be seen to be the best possible implementation of the wishes and needs of the free software community," he said. "It cant impose painful measures and it cant deviate from the spirit of the previous license, or it risks a reduced uptake. Developers will still be able to resort to version 2 of the GPL if they arent satisfied with version 3," Zymaris said. Next Page: Hit the ground running.

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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