Linked by Thom Holwerda on Wed 28th Mar 2007 21:02 UTC, submitted by Ali Davoodifar
GNU, GPL, Open Source The FSF has released the third draft of the revised third version of the GNU General Public License. Some of the changes in the new draft, such as the increased clarification and legal language, or the housekeeping changes that reflect new aspects of the license are likely to be accepted. However, the license also includes a new approach to the controversial issue of lock-down technologies as well as more explicit language about patents, including language designed to prevent a re-occurrence of agreements such as the one that Novell entered into with Microsoft - all of which is apt to kindle heated debate as the revision process enters its final stages after fifteen months of intensive work.
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RE: Let's see
by h times nue equals e on Thu 29th Mar 2007 07:59 UTC in reply to "Let's see"
h times nue equals e
Member since:
2006-01-21

As this is thrown up quite frequently, I decided to do a little investigation on the topic of

"Why, for the Flying Spaghetti Monster's sake, should anybody have to fork the GNU tools when GPLv3 arrives?"

As IANAL, you are of course very welcome to correct and/or augment my findings. Thanks in advance.

First of all, the glibc is covered by the LGPL and not the GPL[1], which pretty much ensures, that even non-compatible licensed code (yes, closed source, proprietary code too) can link against (or like they word it: use) it.

5. A program that contains no derivative of any portion of the Library, but is designed to work with the Library by being compiled or linked with it, is called a “work that uses the Library”. Such a work, in isolation, is not a derivative work of the Library, and therefore falls outside the scope of this License.


In related news, the FAQ of the GNU[2] project addresses the problem of developing code with incompatible licenses explicitly[3]:

Q: Can I use GPL-covered editors such as GNU Emacs to develop non-free programs? Can I use GPL-covered tools such as GCC to compile them?
A: Yes, because the copyright on the editors and tools does not cover the code you write. Using them does not place any restrictions, legally, on the license you use for your code.
(Q: and A: added by myself for the
sake of clarity)

If soon-to-be GPLv3 covered projects, like perhaps SUN's Java use a classpath linkage exception[4], they more or less emulate the behavior of the LGPL and won't cause any direct problems too (not that SUN's Java is a part of the GNU tools, but gjc is).

So, for me, the situation boils down to this:

- A GPLv3 covered GNU toolchain won't hinder the Linux devs from developing, testing and debugging their GPLv2 covered kernel, as long as they don't transfer code from the GNU tools directly to their kernel (and although I'm no big guru when it comes to kernel development, I doubt that significant parts of the kernel are for example derived from the C compiler). If I interpret the FAQ correctly, even MS could develop their Windows operating systems using gcc and g++ without fearing the anger of the mighty GNU :-).

- most FOSS software with a strict GPLv2 policy I'm aware of is very tightly bound to kernels (poster child example: BusyBox with their GPLv2 only[5], although they state on their homepage[6], that they are under GPLv2 or later, weird) and probably can't but in generally don't need not to fork for similar reasons either.

- Proprietary software, that needs to interface with the glibc (and analogously licensed works) can still do so by virtue of the LGPL.

- I don't see many projects who had no problems using the GNU userland tools under GPLv2 dropping it, because they would have had already alternatives available under less restrictive terms (BSD-fileutils, for example).

Basically, the GPLv3 should - in large - not affect people, companies and projects, that have already tried to comply with both letter and spirit of the GPLv2.

My personal opinion is, that entities, that generate an income from a dual-license model should have a pretty big motivation to go for GPLv3, as this increases the possibility to sell licenses for their products, that allow a direct proprietary usage. As of this, I personally would not read too much into actions like MySQL removing the "or later" clause from their product, as it is a different thing to feature such a clause, when the GPLv3 is a distant event on the horizon compared to a situation, where the release is nearing steadily and still large changes (compare this draft to the previous ones) are possible.

As of MySQL, Trolltech and their likes, they are typically the sole holders of the copyright for their projects and therefore in the position to maneuver very agile wrt license changes.

Neglecting the later-as-March-28-2007 addition for a moment, the only ones, that I see in need of forks of the GNU (and other, like SAMBA for example) tools are entities like Novell, who plan or do base their business model on exploiting a bug in the GPLv2.

As I said above, please feel free to correct / augment / contradict my findings, thanks for your attention.

Regards

EDIT: fixed some typos I spotted and clarify the Novell relevant part wrt 2007/03/28 clause.

[1]http://www.gnu.org/software/libc/manual/html_node/Copying.html#Copy...
[2]http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html
[3]http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl-faq.html#CanIUseGPLToolsForNF
[4]http://www.gnu.org/software/classpath/license.html
[5]http://busybox.net/cgi-bin/viewcvs.cgi/trunk/busybox/LICENSE?rev=16...
[6]http://busybox.net/about.html

Edited 2007-03-29 08:15

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