Charlotte Linux User Group tackles GPLv3

Posted by tadelste on Feb 16, 2006 4:39 AM EDT
LXer; By DC Parris
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  LXer Feature: 16-Feb-06

Charlotte, NC - The Charlotte Linux User Group, in a monthly meeting Saturday, discussed the provisions of the GPLv3 draft. Members of the group expressed concerns about the language used in the anti-DRM, license compatibility and license termination sections of the revision draft. The anti-DRM section was seen by some as a potential show-stopper for many developers, while the license compatibility section was seen as potentially encouraging further adoption.

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When the Charlotte Linux User Group (CharLUG) met at our regular monthly meeting this past Saturday, we discussed the revision draft of the GNU General Public License. As usual, we had a small but lively group with a wide range of views. On the one hand, some felt the anti-DRM (Digital Restrictions Management - #3) section could hamper the GPL's popularity. Others felt the License compatibility section (#7) could make it more popular. Which way you see it depends on your viewpoint, of course. Ultimately, people found at least three sections confusing - those dealing with Anti-DRM, Patent Retaliation, and License Termination.



Linus Torvalds has been quoted as saying he doesn't want to give up his private signature keys, used for authenticating source code used in various kernel modules and similar situations. If Torvalds misunderstood the anti-DRM section, it has been woefully under-reported. Linus has not yet responded to an e-mail from LXer seeking clarification. Even so, Torvalds (and many others) doesn't feel that the GPL is the place to address DRM. Others feel that using libre software as part of a DRM system violates the purpose and spirit of libre software. Regardless of one's view of the anti-DRM section, those in attendance at the CharLUG meeting Saturday seemed to agree that it could use some clarification. While Section #3 states clearly that it is an anti-DRM measure, it could be misinterpreted by some as Linus Torvalds did.



Section 7e (Patent Retaliation) seems confusing as well. According to the rationale document, retaliation is limited to lawsuits that constitute agression because they are not brought in retaliation for your agression, or that "target the GPL'ed code or the added part". Essentially, if you act agressively toward someone else, and they retaliate against you, then this clause is moot. If they pursue you without real justification, then you should feel free to prevent them from using your code. However, the wording in the license draft is a rather harsh tongue twister.



The license termination section (#8) was also considered troublesome. The Rationale document states:
"Section 8 of GPLv3 replaces automatic termination with a non-automatic termination process. Any copyright holder for the licensed work may opt to terminate the rights of a violator of the license, provided that the copyright holder has first given notice of the violation within 60 days of its most recent occurrence. A violator who has been given notice may make efforts to enter into compliance and may request that the copyright holder agree not exercise the right of termination; the copyright holder may choose to grant or refuse this request.
If a licensee who is in violation of GPLv3 acts to correct the violation and enter into compliance, and the licensee receives no notice of the past violation within 60 days, then the licensee need not worry about termination of rights under the license."



This could be a well-intentioned idea with potentially harmful consequences. Based on the text, it appears that, if I don't discover the violation until day #61 after the person has violated the license for my covered code, I have no recourse at all for enforcing the license. However, the goal is to give a violator 60 days to correct a violation. Harald Welte, of GPL-Violations.org, is concerned that the License termination section could prevent people "from ever applying for a preliminary injunction" in some countries. GPL-Violations.org has gotten four injunctions in its license enforcement efforts.



We also looked briefly at the Simple Public License (SimPL), a copyleft license drafted by former Microsoft attorney, Robert W. Gomulkiewicz, to demonstrate that the language of the GPL can be simplified. It is part of an article published by the Houston Law Review. It is equivalent to GPLv2, but lacks the provisions included in the GPLv3 draft. If GPLv3 CharLUG will seek comment from the FSF and OSI on this license. The SimPL was astonishingly, well, simple to read and understand. CharLUG members were very interested in knowing how the Free Software Foundation and the Open Source Initiative will react to this license.



The clear lesson from the CharLUG meeting is that the text of the GPLv3 draft could probably be greatly simplified. Secondly, the wording of various sections of the draft need to state the goals more clearly. While the debate between Stallman and Torvalds gets all the attention in the press, thousands of developers, administrators and other users around the globe are engaging - or should be - in the process to make the GPLv3 the best copyleft ever developed.


Note: Don Parris is Vice-Chairman of the Charlotte Linux User Group Steering Committee and a strong supporter of the GNU General Public License.

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anti-DRM protects users' freedoms grouch 0 912 Mar 18, 2006 5:22 PM

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