GPL 3: Pre-Release Buzz Centers on Patents, License Compatibility

By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2006-01-13 Print this article Print

Open-source advocates are hoping that effective new provisions for patents and compatibility with other software licenses will be prominent in the first public draft of the GNU GPL 3.0.

The first public draft of GNU General Public License 3.0 will be released at an event at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., on Monday, and open-source software advocates are hoping that effective provisions for software patents as well as GPL compatibility with other licenses will be prominent in the draft. There is much optimism among those in the free and open-source community that GPL 3.0, the next version of the license that governs much software, including the Linux kernel, will provide a stable licensing environment for the foreseeable future. It will mark the official beginning of a year of public comment and debate on the content, terms and wording of the license that will govern much open-source software for some time to come.
Simon Phipps, the open-source officer at Sun Microsystems Inc., told eWEEK that Sun would most like to see in GPL 3.0 provide a more up-to-date treatment of software patents and to make the inclusion of code under other free and open source software easier.
Mark Webbink, the deputy general counsel and secretary at Red Hat, said the Linux distributor would like to see a greater clarity of the terms concerning software patents in GPL 3.0. The company had received the most feedback from its customers concerning software patents, Webbink said. "That being said, GPL2 has proven to be an immensely durable document," he said. Greg Jones, the associate general counsel for Novell, was looking for the same. "By adopting an open process to address matters such as patent license grants and compatibility with other licenses, the Free Software Foundation is poised to produce an updated GPL that will further advance free software," he said. This is the first time in 15 years that the GPL has been updated to reflect the current IT environment, and the leading players in the industry are all eagerly looking forward to seeing the first draft. GPL 3.0s authors, Richard Stallman, the licenses original author, and Eben Moglen, the general counsel for the Free Software Foundation, have kept the draft under tight warps. Both of them will address attendees at the GPL event. Click here to read Eben Moglens comments on why the GPL 3.0 drafting process is not an election campaign. Manny Vellon, the vice president of product development at Centeris Corp., whose Centeris Likewise product allows users to manage Linux servers in their Windows networks, said it was waiting for the release lease of the draft license document to read the details and see how this might affect them. "We do some work on Samba, which is licensed under the GPL. As consumers of open-source software, the thing we most closely watch is how the use of the software, and the license that governs it, impacts what we do and what we are forced to do," he said. It also looked for any kind of viral nature to the license that "will force us to license our stuff that way too. A read flag for any commercial interest trying to build around open software is if there is a lot of focus on what you can and cannot do," he said. Next Page: Concerns about the process.

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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