Coming Soon to a Kernel Near You: GPL 3

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.

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