GPLs DRM Provisions Worry Businesses

The first draft discussion document for the next version of the gnu general public license has only just been released, but some businesses already are expressing concern about its digital rights management provisions.

The first draft discussion document for the next version of the GNU General Public License has only just been released, but some businesses already are expressing concern about its digital rights management provisions.

Richard Stallman, founder of the Free Software Foundation and co-author of the first draft discussion document, said at the launch event on Jan. 16 that DRM "is a malicious feature and can never be tolerated, as DRM is fundamentally based on activities that cannot be done with free software."

That stance could irk enterprise users who may be fans of DRM, which, broadly defined, is software that limits how digital data is used. While Eben Moglen, the general counsel for the FSF and the co-author of the draft license, acknowledged to eWEEK that there already is unhappiness among some companies with regard to the DRM provisions, he admitted that the new license will not satisfy everyone.

The business community is as big and diverse as the hacker community and will respond in a variety of ways to the DRM and other issues with the license. "These can then be played off one against the other," Moglen said.

The DRM provisions are designed to go after companies such as Tivo, which uses Linux but collects information on consumers actions. While Tivo complies with GPL 2.0, it may have more difficulty complying with the new provisions.

Asked if Tivo could avoid using GPL 3.0 when that license is released next year, Moglen said, "Once a GPLed work has been relicensed under GPLv3, although a party having a copy under GPLv2 could continue to distribute it under that license, any further maintenance from upstream would force the license upgrade."

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, in Palo Alto, Calif., told eWEEK the company appreciates that the FSF is concerned about DRM generally and about its implications for the ability to modify software.

"This is a difficult issue for which there is no simple answer for the FSF," Martino said. "It is too early to know what specific feedback HP might offer."