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By Peter Galli  |  Posted 2006-01-26 Print this article Print

While the ability to oppose DRM by means of free software licenses has been limited, the new license provides developers with some forms of leverage that they can use against DRM. The new provisions essentially direct the courts to interpret the GPL in light of a policy of discouraging and impeding DRM and other technical restrictions on users freedoms and illegal invasions of privacy. "This provides copyright holders and other GPL licensors with means to take action against activities contrary to users freedom, if governments fail to act. If a covered work is distributed as part of a system for generating or accessing certain data, the effect of this license is to prevent someone from claiming that some other GPLd program that accesses the same data is an illegal circumvention," Moglen and Stallman said.
Many of the Linux and open-source vendors declined to comment publicly about the DRM provisions in GPL 3.0. Christine Martino, vice president of Hewlett-Packards open-source and Linux organization), told eWEEK the company appreciates that the FSF is concerned about DRM generally and about its implications for the ability to modify software.
"The bottom line is that this is a difficult issue for which there is no simple answer for the FSF," Martino said. "We expect to see quite a bit of feedback on this as people work through understanding many possible scenarios that involve interaction of free software with DRM. At the moment, it is too early to know what specific feedback HP might offer." Asked if there are other lightening rods in the draft license, Moglen said the goal is to do what is in the interest of freedom without putting the cost of freedom on any one particular set of shoulders. "We would have done the same with the community that needs DRM if only it had done the same with us. It is our view that it was they who began an irrepressible conflict by stating, as a condition of their survival, the need to extinguish the kind of freedom on which we depend. "If this conflict is not irrepressible, if the condition of their success is not the extinction of our freedom, then we think there is plenty of room for co-existence," he said. With regard to the conflict that exists between companies like IBM and HP that support free and open-source software, yet continue to grow their patent portfolios, Moglen said there is an ongoing dialogue with them around the increasing understanding within those firms that the patent system is out of control and doing harm. Linux vendors and distributors like Red Hat and Novell are calling for GPL 3.0 to address the issues of patents and license compatibility. Click here to read more. "Even the largest patent holders within the information technology industry—think IBM, think HP—have begun to recognize that the system hurts their customers and the community of which they are a part and has simply gone too far," he said. "So what we do is begin building outward from our common understanding about what has gone wrong. "While we may differ about how thorough a remedy is necessary, we have more than enough common ground now from which to begin that conversation. When we say that putting too much patent risk on the backs of your customers isnt good for you as a business, we are not speaking to a problem they dont understand. We are speaking directly to one they do understand, although we may differ about what to do about it." Next Page: Compatibility moves are encouraging.

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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