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."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 industrythink IBM, think HPhave 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.
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.