Friday, October 22, 2021

Stallman Urges Users to Upgrade to GPLv3

After nearly 16 years of use, the GPL — the cornerstone license of the Free Software Movement — has officially been revised.

GPL version 3 (GPLv3) was released today by the Free Software Foundation (FSF), capping a turbulent 18-month period of debate and discussion.

On a webcast from FSF’s headquarters in Boston, FSF founder Richard Stallman explained why GPLv3 is critical and encouraged all Free Software users to adopt it quickly as a way to preserve software freedom.

“They thought of new ways to separate users from their freedom since GPL
version 2 came out,” Stallman said in his webcast. “So we have had to find
ways of blocking them from doing this.”

The GPLv3 includes new provisions that prevent digital rights management (DRM) usage with GPLv3 licensed code. It also includes new internationalization terms, making the license more compatible globally.

Stallman also noted that GPLv3 is now compatible with the Apache 2.0 license
and includes new terms for termination in the event of license violation
that actually allow for remediation; the GPLv2 did not feature such terms.

Stallman saved some of his most intense remarks for his comments on patent
protections which are improved in GPLv3 and specifically geared toward the Novell-Microsoft deal.

“The Novell-Microsoft deal is dangerous because effectively Novell is going
to pay Microsoft to give customers protection from Microsoft patents,”
Stallman said.

“If Microsoft or anyone can make users pay for the privilege
of running Free Software that takes away the freedom to run the program as
you wish. We can’t sit idly by and let that happen.”

Stallman explained that Novell and Microsoft slipped through a crack in the
GPLv2 license by striking a patent covenant and not a license. With GPLv3, Stallman thinks that he’s got a way to turn the
deal against Microsoft.

“Instead of saying Novell can’t distribute GPLv3 covered programs under
their deal, we found a cleverer thing to do with it,” Stallman said.

“When Novell upgrades to versions of software covered by the GPLv3, GPLv3
will extend this patent protection from the customers of Novell to everybody
who uses those programs. Effectively, we found a way to turn the deal against
Microsoft and make it backfire.”

Accordingly, Stallman added that it’s extremely important for Free Software users
to upgrade their licenses to GPLv3 so that Novell will eventually
put in the new version and the community will get this benefit.

Stallman advised viewers to be wary of those that
advise against moving to GPLv3.

“They {those against GPLv3} usually disagree cause they disagree with the
GPL’s goal of guaranteeing freedom for every user,” Stallman said. “Defend
the users’ freedom, don’t listen to them. We have to defend the users’ freedom
against these threats.”

“GPLv 3 will help our community in many ways and I urge people to upgrade to
it.”

The FSF also revealed today in its release that over 15 GNU
programs will be released under the new license today with the intention of
having the entire GNU project follow soon.

But among the issues that will face existing GPLv2 users is the incompatibility
with GPLv3.

“Reciprocal licenses cannot be compatible with each other,” Black Duck
Software’s Kat McCabe, vice president & general counsel, explained to
internetnews.com.

“If you use code covered by a reciprocal license, that license requires that it control the code when it’s licensed back out. You can’t have multiple licenses that by their terms claim to govern a
particular work automatically. So, it’s correct to say that “GPL2 only”
code and GPL3 code are not compatible.”

The solution to the problem isn’t entirely clear. McCabe noted that
Black Duck’s solution allows users to distinguish between different versions
of the license so they can distinguish between “GPL2 only” and GPL3 code.

“Generally speaking though, there are a limited number projects that are
provided under “GPL2 only” licenses, for example the Linux kernel,” McCabe
said.

“Most projects governed by GPL2 have language that says that the code
is governed by GPL2 or any later version of the license. That code can be
converted from GPL2 to GPL3 at the option of the user. In that case,
there is no license conflict.”

Jason Wacha, vice president of corporate affairs & general counsel at
MontaVista Software, sees the potential for some confusion between the
two licenses.

If you mix version 2 with version 3 and then create a
derivative work, Wacha argued that it’s not clear under which license the
resulting work needs to be offered under.

Where version 2 and version are likely to co-exist in some fashion is with
the use of the GCC
compiler
, one way or another.

“If, for some reason, GCC rolled to version 3 and there was no exceptions for
use under version 2 I would say that it is almost certain that GCC would
fork,” Wacha stated. “It has forked in the past and it will probably fork
again if that happens — that’s my personal prediction.”

Overall, MontaVista which develops Linux for the embedded market, isn’t worried about the GPL
version 3.

“It could affect some of our mobile carriers,” Wach told
internetnews.com. “Overall they will probably avoid using code
licensed under the GPLv3 if possible and stick with version 2.”

With its new restrictive clauses on patents and DRM, the embedded market
likely isn’t afraid of the GPLv3 either.

“Our customers are used to working with licenses that are much more
restrictive than the GPL,” Wacha said. “In my opinion, typical proprietary
licenses are much more restrictive in pretty much all instances than the
GPL.”

This article was first published on InternetNews.com.

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