Thanks to SGI, a potential disaster for Free software purists has been averted. Back in January 2008, it was discovered by the OpenBSD guys that some of the contributions to X.org and the Mesa 3D Graphics Library made by SGI were covered under permissive open source licenses that didn’t fall within FSF’s definition of Free software. The FSF Compliance Lab worked with SGI to resolve the issue, and they succeeded.
The solution was to release a new version of the license that governed the problematic bits of code, the SGI Free Software License B. This license has been adapted to fall within the scope of that the FSF designates as Free software, resolving the issue at hand. In a statement, SGI said
“SGI has been one of the most ardent commercial supporters of free and open source software, so it was important to us that we continue to support the free software development community by releasing our earlier OpenGL-related contributions under this new license,” said Steve Neuner, director of Linux, SGI. “This license ensures that all existing user communities will benefit, and their work can proceed unimpeded. Both Mesa and the X.org Project can continue to utilize this code in free software distributions of GNU/Linux. Now more than ever, software previously released by SGI under earlier GLX and SGI Free Software License B is free.”
The FSF is obviously thrilled by the news. “We couldn’t be happier with this decision, and we’re very grateful to SGI for all their assistance,” the FSF states, “The FSF is committed to ensuring that everyone’s computing tasks can be done with free software and this SGI code plays an important role in scientific and design applications and in the latest desktop environments and games.”
Some loose ends still need to be tied up, but they shouldn’t pose any problems. Once these ends have been tied up, even hardcore Free software distributions like gNewSense can use all of this code.