FSF releases the GNU General Public License, version 3
BOSTON, Massachusetts, USA—Friday, June 29, 2007—The Free Software Foundation (FSF) today released version 3 of the GNU General Public License (GNU GPL), the world's most popular free software license.
“Since we founded the free software movement, over 23 years ago, the free software community has developed thousands of useful programs that respect the user's freedom. The programs are in the GNU/Linux operating system, as well as personal computers, telephones, Internet servers, and more. Most of these programs use the GNU GPL to guarantee every user the freedom to run, study, adapt, improve, and redistribute the program,” said Richard Stallman, founder and president of the FSF.
Version 3 of the GNU GPL strengthens this guarantee, by ensuring that users can modify the free software on their personal and household devices, and granting patent licenses to every user. It also extends compatibility with other free software licenses and increases international uniformity.
Jeremy Allison, speaking on behalf of the Samba team, states that they see the new license as “a great improvement on the older GPL,” and that it is “a necessary update to deal with the new threats to free software that have emerged since version 2 of the GPL.”
The warm embrace of much of the community should come as no surprise, for the license is the final result of an unprecedented drafting process that has seen four published drafts in eighteen months. These were the basis for a discussion that included thousands of comments from the public. This feedback, along with input from committees representing the public and private sectors, and legal advice from the Software Freedom Law Center, was used in writing the text of GPL version 3.
“By hearing from so many different groups in a public drafting process, we have been able to write a license that successfully addresses a broad spectrum of concerns. But even more importantly, these different groups have had an opportunity to find common ground on important issues facing the free software community today, such as patents, tivoization, and Treacherous Computing,” said the Foundation's executive director, Peter Brown.
Tivoization and Treacherous (aka, “Trusted”) Computing are schemes to prevent users from utilizing modified or alternate software. The former simply blocks modified software from running; the latter enables web sites to refuse to talk to modified software. Both are typically used to impose malicious features such as Digital Restrictions Management (DRM). GPL version 3 does not restrict the features of a program; in particular, it does not prohibit DRM. However, it prohibits the use of tivoization and Treacherous Computing to stop users from changing the software. Thus, they are free to remove whatever features they may dislike.
Karl Berry, long-time GNU developer and Texinfo maintainer, believes that “the GPL is the fundamental license that ties the free software community together, and version 3 does an excellent job of updating the license to the present-day computing reality.” Elated by the new patent clause, he bemoans software patents as “a scourge on our cooperative efforts.”
Over fifteen GNU programs will be released under the new license today, and the entire GNU Project will follow suit in the coming months. The FSF will also encourage adoption of the license through education and outreach programs. “A lot of time and effort went into this license. Now free programs must adopt it so as to offer their users its stronger protection for their freedom,” Stallman said.
The final license is published at http://www.gnu.org/licenses/gpl.html
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 and reliable, focuses on development models, and 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
Free Software Foundation
Free Software Foundation