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You are here: Home FSF News GPLv3: recent misleading information

GPLv3: recent misleading information

by Matt Lee Contributions Published on Sep 25, 2006 05:48 PM
The Free Software Foundation wishes to clarify a few factual points about the Second Discussion Draft of GNU GPL version 3, on which recent discussion has presented inaccurate information.
1.  The FSF has no power to force anyone to switch from GPLv2 to GPLv3
    on their own code.  We intentionally wrote GPLv2 (and GPLv1) so we
    would not have this power.  Software developers will continue to
    have the right to use GPLv2 for their code after GPLv3 is
    published, and we will respect their decisions.

2.  In order to honor freedom 0, your freedom to run the program as
    you wish, a free software license may not contain "use
    restrictions" that would restrict what you can do with it.

    Contrary to what some have said, the GPLv3 draft has no use
    restrictions, and the final version won't either.

    GPLv3 will prohibit certain distribution practices which restrict
    users' freedom to modify the code.  We hope this policy will
    thwart the ways some companies wish to "use" free software --
    namely, distributing it to you while controlling what you can do
    with it.  This policy is not a "use restriction": it doesn't
    restrict how they, or you, can run the program; it doesn't
    restrict what they, or you, can make the program do.  Rather it
    ensures you, as a user, are as free as they are.

3.  Where GPLv2 relies on an implicit patent license, which depends on
    US law, GPLv3 contains an explicit patent license that does the
    same job internationally.

    Contrary to what some have said, GPLv3 will not cause a company to
    "lose its entire [software] patent portfolio".  It simply says
    that if someone has a patent covering XYZ, and distributes a
    GPL-covered program to do XYZ, he can't sue the program's
    subsequent users, redistributors and improvers for doing XYZ with
    their own versions of that program.  This has no effect on other
    patents which that program does not implement.

    Software patents attack the freedom of all software developers and
    users; their only legitimate use is to deter aggression using
    software patents.  Therefore, if we could abolish every entity's
    entire portfolio of software patents tomorrow, we would jump at
    the chance.  But it isn't possible for a software license such as
    the GNU GPL to achieve such a result.

    We do, however, hope that GPL v3 can solve a part of the patent
    problem.  The FSF is now negotiating with organizations holding
    substantial patent inventories, trying to mediate between their
    conflicting "extreme" positions.  We hope to work out the precise
    details of the explicit patent license so as to free software
    developers from patent aggression under a substantial fraction of
    software patents.  To fully protect software developers and users
    from software patents will, however, require changes in patent law.

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. Their Web site, located at, is an
important source of information about GNU/Linux. Donations to
support their work can be made at Their
headquarters are in Boston, MA, USA. 
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