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You are here: Home FSF News FSF Releases "Last Call" Draft of GPLv3

FSF Releases "Last Call" Draft of GPLv3

by Matt Lee Contributions Published on May 31, 2007 01:35 PM

BOSTON, Massachusetts, USA—Thursday, May 31, 2007—The Free Software Foundation (FSF) today released the fourth and “last call” draft for version 3 of the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL), the world's most widely used free software license. The Foundation will hear comments on the latest draft for 29 days, and expects to officially publish the license on Friday, June 29, 2007.

The new draft incorporates the feedback received from the general public and official discussion committees since the release of the previous draft on March 28, 2007. FSF executive director Peter Brown said, “We've made a few very important improvements based on the comments we've heard, most notably with license compatibility. Now that the license is almost finished, we can look forward to distributing the GNU system under GPLv3, and making its additional protections available to the whole community.”

The FSF has also published an essay by Richard Stallman on the benefits of upgrading to GPLv3. “Keeping a program under GPLv2 won't create problems,” he writes. “The reason to migrate is because of the existing problems which GPLv3 will fix, such as tivoization, DRM, and threats from software patents. . . . Further advantages of GPLv3 include better internationalization, gentler termination, support for BitTorrent, and compatibility with the Apache license.”

Changes in this draft include:

  • GPLv3 is now compatible with version 2.0 of the Apache License.
  • Distributors who make discriminatory patent deals after March 28 may not convey software under GPLv3. Novell is not prohibited from distributing this software because the patent protection they arranged with Microsoft last November can be turned against Microsoft to the community's benefit.
  • Terms have been added clarifying how you can contract for private modification of free software, or for a data center to run it for you.
  • A reference to a US consumer protection statute has been replaced by explicit criteria, for greater clarity outside the US.

More information about this draft including rationale documentation detailing the latest changes is available at http://gplv3.fsf.org; Stallman's essay, Why Upgrade to GPL Version 3, can be found at http://gplv3.fsf.org/rms-why.html. Since this is the "last call" draft, the FSF is strongly encouraging community members to scrutinize the license text and leave feedback through the web site.

About the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL)

The GNU GPL is the most widely used free software license worldwide: almost three quarters of all free software packages are distributed under this license. It is not, however, the only free software license.

Richard Stallman wrote the version 1 and 2 of the GNU GPL with legal advice from Perkins, Smith & Cohen. Version 1 was released in 1989, and version 2 in 1991. Since 1991, free software use has increased tremendously, and computing practices have changed, introducing new opportunities and new threats. In 2005, Stallman began revising the GPL for version 3. In January 2006, the FSF began a systematic process of public review and feedback, with legal advice and organizational support from the Software Freedom Law Center.

About the GNU Operating System and Linux

Richard Stallman announced in September 1983 the plan to develop a free software Unix-like operating system called GNU. GNU is the only operating system developed specifically for the sake of users' freedom. See http://www.gnu.org/gnu/the-gnu-project.html.

In 1992, the essential components of GNU were complete, except for one, the kernel. When in 1992 the kernel Linux was re-released under the GNU GPL, making it free software, the combination of GNU and Linux formed a complete free operating system, which made it possible for the first time to run a PC without non-free software. This combination is the GNU/Linux system. For more explanation, see http://www.gnu.org/gnu/gnu-linux-faq.html

The GNU components in the GNU system will be released under GPL version 3, once it is finalized. The licensing of Linux will be decided by the developers of Linux. If they decide to stay with GPL version 2, then the GNU/Linux system will contain GNU packages using GNU GPL version 3, alongside Linux under GNU GPL version 2. Many other packages with various licenses make up the full GNU/Linux system.

About Free Software and Open Source

The free software movement's goal is freedom for computer users. Some, especially corporations, advocate a different viewpoint, known as "open source", which cites only practical goals such as making software powerful reliable, focuses on development models, avoids discussion of ethics and freedom. These two viewpoints are different at the deepest level. For more explanation, see http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/open-source-misses-the-point.html

The GNU GPL is used by developers with various views, but it was written to serve the ethical goals of the free software movement. Says Stallman, "The GNU GPL makes sense in terms of its purpose: freedom and social solidarity. Trying to understand it in terms of the goals and values of open source is like trying understand a CD drive's retractable drawer as a cupholder. You can use it for that, but that is not what it was designed for."

About The Free Software Foundation

The Free Software Foundation, founded in 1985, is dedicated to promoting computer users' right to use, study, copy, modify, and redistribute computer programs. The FSF promotes the development and use of free (as in freedom) software—particularly the GNU operating system and its GNU/Linux variants—and free documentation for free software. The FSF also helps to spread awareness of the ethical and political issues of freedom in the use of software. Its Web site, located at www.fsf.org, is an important source of information about GNU/Linux. Donations to support the FSF's work can be made at http://donate.fsf.org. Its headquarters are in Boston, MA, USA.

Media Contacts

Brett Smith
Licensing Compliance Engineer
Free Software Foundation
617-542-5942 x18 brett@fsf.org

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