Red Hat leads coalition supporting key part of Principles of Community-Oriented GPL Enforcement
On September 30th, 2015, the Free Software Foundation and the Software Freedom Conservancy jointly published the Principles of Community-Oriented GPL Enforcement (the Principles). The ultimate goal of free software license enforcement isn't to punish violators or force them to stop distribution, but rather to ensure that free software always remains free. It incentivizes proper redistribution of free software, seeking to increase the number of companies, individuals, and organizations involved. The Principles lay out the policies anyone can follow to achieve these goals in an ethical manner. The Netfilter project formally adopted the Principles in July of 2016, and we expect more projects and organizations will follow.
Now, in a positive step forward, a group of companies led by Red Hat has announced a commitment in effect adopting an important part of the Principles: They will use the GPLv3's more refined approach to compliance and termination when dealing with violations on their GPLv2-licensed works. In addition to Red Hat, the companies making the "Common Cure Rights Commitment" include Facebook, Google, and IBM. This commitment is similar to the announcement made by developers of the kernel Linux this past October.
We explain why this is important in the Principles:
GPLv2 terminates all copyright permissions at the moment of violation, and that termination is permanent. GPLv3's termination provision allows first-time violators automatic restoration of distribution rights when they correct the violation promptly, and gives the violator a precise list of copyright holders whose forgiveness it needs. GPLv3's collaborative spirit regarding termination reflects a commitment to and hope for future cooperation and collaboration. It's a good idea to follow this approach in compliance situations stemming from honest mistakes, even when the violations are on works under GPLv2.
That is why the Free Software Foundation extends the benefit of GPLv3-style termination even for GPLv2-only works, while we also remind that this is only one of the reasons GPLv2 projects should consider upgrading to GPLv3.
The announcement of the Common Cure Rights Commitment is welcome news for the free software movement, and we look forward to more organizations either fully adopting the Principles of Community-Oriented GPL Enforcement or making similar commitments in the same spirit. These steps help to strengthen copyleft and therefore the long-term protection of user freedom.
Everyone is welcome to join the Principles mailing list to discuss their application and improvement.