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You are here: Home FSF News Thank you SGI, for freeing the GNU/Linux 3D desktop!

Thank you SGI, for freeing the GNU/Linux 3D desktop!

by Matt Lee Contributions Published on Sep 19, 2008 09:26 AM
In January of 2008, software code at the heart of GNU/Linux 3D applications was discovered to be non-free—a potential disaster for free software advocates hoping to see advanced graphical acceleration now common on modern operating systems.

The code, licensed by Silicon Graphics (SGI), was distributed under the SGI Free License B and the GLX Public License. These licenses, although permissive, contained three sets of terms which created significant burdens for all users and developers and a particular problem for the free software community because they made the code non-free (see the Free Software Definition at http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/free-sw.html).

The Free Software Foundation (FSF) Free Software Compliance Lab's Brett Smith explained, "We discovered that these licenses covered contributions that SGI had made to the X.Org Project and the Mesa 3D Graphics Library. These projects, including SGI's code, are an important and familiar part of modern GNU/Linux desktop systems. The FSF Compliance Lab then worked with SGI towards today's announcement."

You can read SGI's press release here:
http://www.sgi.com/company_info/newsroom/press_releases/2008/september/opengl.html

Steve Neuner of 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. 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."

Welcoming today's announcement, Peter Brown, FSF executive director, said, "We couldn't be happier with this decision, and we're very grateful to SGI for all their assistance.  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."

Still, there are a few legal loose ends that need to be tied up before GNU/Linux distributions can utilize all the code base in freedom. Brett Smith explained, "There are a few other copyright holders that I'm working with to resolve their licensing issues and I'm confident that fully free distributions like gNewSense will soon be able to utilize all of this code." The FSF will be releasing further information early next week.

In addition to thanking SGI for this major contribution, the FSF would like to thank the OpenBSD community for alerting the FSF to the problem.

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Peter Brown
Free Software Foundation
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