Stallman Speaks on the Future of GPL 3.0

Q&A: Richard Stallman, founder of the FSF, talks about his goals for the GPL and the hopes and fears of free software advocates.

/zimages/6/124928.jpgThe update to the GNU General Public License 2.0, which was some five years in the making, was released this week for a year of public commentary.

Richard Stallman, the founder of the Free Software Foundation and author of the current license, sat down with eWEEK Senior Editor Peter Galli at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Mass., to talk about his aims, hopes and wishes for the new license.

Tell me what you want to see going forward, now that the first draft discussion document for GPL 3.0 has been released.

I want to see a lot of people checking carefully for cases where these words wont do the right thing, so that we can fix them before the license takes effect.

/zimages/6/28571.gifRead more here about the discussion process for GPL 3.0.

This is just a discussion draft and is not yet a version of the GPL, and so does not apply to any programs. But we want any problems to be found before we make an official release of GPL Version 3 and, so, we need lots of people looking for problems.

How many people do you expect to take part in that process?

I cant guess, but others involved in the process expect it to be thousands. I have no expectations, as I dont know enough to guess. So I dont try.

How confident are you that this draft sets the framework for GPL 3.0?

Im pretty comfortable that, aside from little details, it is good, that it does the right things about the various issues that have come up.

You said the main issues for you were making the license more easily compatible with other free licenses, as well as DRM (Digital Rights Management) and the whole patent issue. Tell me your thoughts on these issues.

DRM is an attempt to crush the freedom that copyright law gives the public. It is completely evil. DRM does not deserve to be tolerated and should be wiped out. It is tolerated because governments are not very democratic and the rich have too much power over governments and the media.

So how much more pervasive do you think DRM will become?

I cant predict the future. What I can see is that powerful companies have already, to a substantial extent, imposed this on people.

Many audio and video works and transmissions are already only available in DRM formats and can only be understood by non-free software. There is no hope of making free software to handle it and in many countries that would be illegal.

They keep changing the Codec and so, even if you did some reverse engineering and figured out the format and what is needed to decode it—in a place where that was legal—soon there will be another Codec.

So what people have to do is reject these formats. People should never install these players. They have to stand up for their own freedom or they will lose it. That is what history has shown us for years.

Next Page: How GPL 3.0 will tackle DRM.