New language in the third draft of the GNU General Public License (define), GPL v3, has the potential to reach beyond big Linux vendors with its proposed licensing rules that govern how most open source software is deployed and modified.
Some of the terms in the just-released draft also have the potential to adjust software practices at search engine giant Google, which uses open source widely within its own infrastructure. But Google manager of Open Source Programs, Chris DiBona, told internetnews.com he doesn’t see a problem with the draft license.
DiBona noted two points in the latest version. One is a clause that said “mere interaction with a user through a computer network, with no transfer of a copy, is not conveying,” in a reference to how license terms are conveyed.
The other is the so-called “Affero” clause, which refers to the Affero General Public License (or AGPL). The AGPL is a derivative of the GPL, v2 and is intended to provide GPL rights over a network application.
DiBona noted that the draft appears to allow for a one-way relicensing of GPL v3 code into Affero-covered code. At that point, the code could be governed by Affero GPL, rather than the latest version of the GPL v3. But the latest GPL draft said if conveyance occurs, then, according to the right of the GPL, the developer would need to provide full source code for the GPL’ed application.
The new clauses won’t change Google’s practices. “We have the ability to tag incoming open source code as being allowed or not allowed in Web performance situations,” DiBona said. “This means we don’t need to worry too much about these kinds of restrictions [because] we can track them.”
The new GPL draft also does not provide compatibility for Apache 2.0 licenses projects, which Simon Phipps, Chief Open Source Officer for Sun Microsystems, lamented. On the other hand, Phipps noted, the prior draft, GPL v2, isn’t compatible with the Apache license either and developers are living with that.
“I think it’s a shame that the free software community has been unable to come up with mechanisms that allow genuinely free software to be mixed by genuine free software developers,” Phipps told internetnews.com. “I think it’s unfortunate that [this] has become the case. I would like to see us as the Free and Open Software community find a solution to the problem, though it doesn’t look GPL 3 will be the solution to that.”
Google’s DiBona noted that the incompatibility of Apache 2.0 and GPL has never presented a problem to Google. “We typically choose the Apache license as we like our code to be broadly adopted both within the commercial realm and by our friends in open source,”
DiBona said. “We have released software under the GPL before when it made sense to do so, and we will continue this practice when v3 comes out.”
Another key item included in the third draft of the GPL v3 is aimed at preventing third party patent deals like the one signed by Novell with Microsoft late last year. However, in a blog post, Novell spokesperson Bruce Lowry wrote that nothing in the new draft of GPL3 inhibits Novell’s ability to include GPL3 technologies in SUSE Linux Enterprise, openSUSE, and other Novell open source offerings, now and in the future.
“We are firmly committed to continuing the partnership with Microsoft and, as we always have, fully complying with the terms of the licenses for the software that we ship, including software licensed under GPL3,” Lowry wrote.
“If the final version of the GPL3 does potentially impact the agreement we have with Microsoft, we’ll address that with Microsoft.”
Novell declined to comment to internetnews.com further.
Spokespersons for HP and Red Hat contacted by internetnews.com declined to comment, saying they preferred to see the final draft of the license changes first.