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Re: GPLv3 comedy unfolding -- Moglen: "It's more about the development o

From: Alexander Terekhov
Subject: Re: GPLv3 comedy unfolding -- Moglen: "It's more about the development of the society and less about the software license."
Date: Tue, 22 Aug 2006 12:17:32 +0200

At a panel at LinuxWorld, Moglen described the process as nothing short
of a massive community looking deep within itself and answering the
lofty question: What does freedom mean? It's a very open-source way to
solve a problem; only unlike fixing bugs in a code, there's no easy
answer and big divides that are hard to bridge. "It's an unusual
activity," Moglen says. "It's more about the development of the society
and less about the software license."

DIGITAL RIGHTS DILEMMA.  His panel members, Christine Martino, head of
Hewlett-Packard's (HPQ) Linux business, and Stuart Cohen, chief
executive of the Open Source Development Labs, agreed it was an
ambitious and impressive undertaking. That doesn't mean they were happy
with the outcome when the second draft was released in July.

The two biggest sticking points are patents and digital rights
management. HP's objection is a part of the license that says anything
touched by GPL code becomes open source. In other words, if a company
bundles its hardware with open-source software and ships it to
customers, it surrenders rights to enforce patents. "HP had hopes that
the second draft would clarify the patent provision such as to ease
concern that mere distribution of a single copy of GPL-licensed software
might have some adverse [intellectual property] impact on a company," HP
said in a statement. "Unfortunately, the concern lingers in draft 2."

Stallman also has concerns over hardware. Increasingly popular products
like TiVo use Linux, but the hardware has so-called digital rights
management protections to ensure that altered or tweaked software
doesn't work with the hardware. Stallman thinks that's inhibiting the
freedom of people to change software as they see fit (see, 3/28/06, "Keeping Free Software Free"). Torvalds
argues that software makers don't have the right to make such moral
demands about the hardware it runs on. "[Stallman] sees the license as a
tool to get to his end goal that all software should be open source and
free," says Diane Peters, general counsel for the Open Source
Development Labs, which governs and advocates for Linux. "[Torvalds]
doesn't share that grandiose idea."

GOAL: ONE-STOP LICENSING.  Unless something changes, the sad end result
for all this work could be more of the status quo: many license options
and one big industry headache. The GPL is still the de facto license
behind some 75% of the open-source projects out there, but many of the
largest ones use different licenses—a headache for businesses or
companies that want to bundle the free software into their own products.

Moglen, for his part, remains an optimist. He applauds Torvalds and
others for being clear in their objections. It's when people are up
front about their bottom line that "the serious negotiation begins." On
the panel, he said: "I see no reason to believe these objections
necessarily spell doom. Common ground can be found."

So after months of work, talking, drafts, and compromises, are the two
sides back to square one? Few parties want to talk in absolutes yet.
There is a third draft due in October that should take the current
criticisms into account. Then concerned parties will have another 45
days for input before the Free Software Foundation comes out with the
final version by March of next year.

IRRELEVANCE MAY BECKON.  The biggest stakeholders in the open-source
business world are watching quietly. Red Hat (RHAT), the biggest
distributor of Linux, didn't want to comment until it saw a final draft.
Sun Microsystems (SUNW), which is in the process of open-sourcing almost
all of its software, has lawyers closely looking at the matter and is
still hopeful, says Simon Phipps, chief open-source officer for Sun.
Marten Mickos, chief executive of open-source up-and-comer MySQL,
similarly didn't want to judge until the work was complete, saying he
was optimistic that the two sides were at least inching forward. "The
GPL 3 will be able to contribute to the success of society only to the
degree it is widely adopted," he says.

And when it comes to widespread adoption, Torvalds has the upper hand.
Many large open-source companies don't use the GPL, or use it along with
other licenses, for some of the most high-profile programs. These
include Mozilla, which makes the Firefox browser; the Eclipse Software
Foundation, which makes tools for open-source developers; and the Apache
Software Foundation, which governs several so-called middleware

If Torvalds chooses not to go with version 3 for Linux, the Free
Software Foundation will become even more irrelevant to the business
world of open source. Of Torvalds, Peters notes, "He would move to it if
he thought there was something beneficial in there, but I don't think
he's seen it yet." 


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