GPL Revision Gets Under Way

Fueled with a grant from Dutch nonprofit NLnet, the FSF is starting to gather comments from the worldwide open-source community as it continues to revise the GPL.

On Tuesday, the Free Software Foundation announced the creation of the global "GPL Version 3 Development and Publicity Project," which will help create the next version of the General Public License.

The Dutch nonprofit NLnet foundation is donating €150,000 to the cause.

The new project is meant to bring together thousands of organizations, software developers and software users to help suggest revisions to the GPL. The GPL is an open-source license and covers Linux.

Eben Moglen, the legal counsel for the FSF estimates that 65 percent to 70 percent of all open-source projects were licensed under the GPL, which is working on its first major update since 1991.

Open-source backers agree that the revised licenses language should be clearer. In addition, almost all free software experts agree that the new GPL should deal with software patents and related issues.

FSF Europe president, Georg Greve, has suggested that if someone uses software patents against a GPL program, the developer should lose the right to distribute that program.

While the next version of the GPL is being written by original author Richard M. Stallman and Moglen, they are actively seeking suggestions from the entire open-source community.

The global process will be overseen by the FSF with support from its legal counsel the recently established SFLC (Software Freedom Law Centre). The NLnet funds will help fuel this operation.

According to Greve, in a message to FSF Europe, the process will "invite some people into so-called advisory committees which will first help to determine the milestones and rules for global participation. These guidelines are then supposed to come out in November/December 2005."

/zimages/6/28571.gifClick here to read about Linux insiders warning of the challenges facing the new GPL draft.

Then, "In the first weeks of 2006, the first draft of GPLv3 shall be put in public, ready for comments. It will be accompanied by a paper that explains in detail why each change was made and what effect it has."

Finally, "If things go as planned, by the end of 2006 all voices should have been heard, all arguments considered, so we will be able to have Richard and Eben announce the final GPLv3 in early 2007," said Greve.

This process will probably take more time than Moglen had thought earlier this year.

In May, Moglen said, "It wont be long before the first public draft of the GPL 3 will be out, and it will include clauses on how to conduct patent defense."

In announcing the grant to the FSF and FSF Europe, Teus Hagen, chairman of NLnet said in a statement, "NLnets support of the GPL and the Free Software movement, and its desire to see the successful adoption of GPLv3 achieved in the spirit of internationalization, made the funding of this project an important priority for us."

Hagen also said, "We hope to encourage other grant-making organizations to help fund this unique project."