iPhone restricts users, GPLv3 frees them
BOSTON, Massachusetts, USA—Thursday, June 28, 2007—On Friday, June 29, not everyone in the continental U.S. will be waiting in line to purchase a $500 iPhone. In fact, hundreds of thousands of digital aficionados around the globe won't be standing in line at all, for June 29 marks the release of version 3 of the GNU General Public License (GPL). Version 2 of the GPL governs the world's largest body of free software—software that is radically reshaping the industry and threatening the proprietary technology model represented by the iPhone.
The author of the GPL is Professor Richard M. Stallman, president and founder of the Free Software Foundation, and creator of the GNU Project. With his first revision of the license in sixteen years, version 3 of the GPL fights the most recent attempts to take the freedom out of free software—most notably, version 3 attacks “Tivoization”—and that could be a problem for Apple and the iPhone.
Now, from China to India, from Venezuela to Brazil, from Tivos to cell phones: Free software is everywhere and it is slowly building a worldwide movement of users demanding that they have control over the computers and electronic devices they own.
Tivoization and the iPhone?
“Tivoization” is a term coined by the FSF to describe devices that are built with free software, but that use technical measures to prevent the user from making modifications to the software—a fundamental freedom for free software users—and an attack on free software that the GPLv3 will put a stop to.
The iPhone is leaving people questioning: Does it contain GPLed software? What impact will the GPLv3 have on the long-term prospects for devices like the iPhone that are built to keep their owners frustrated?
Peter Brown, executive director of the FSF said, “Tomorrow, Steve Jobs and Apple release a product crippled with proprietary software and digital restrictions: crippled, because a device that isn't under the control of its owner works against the interests of its owner. We know that Apple has built its operating system, OS X, and its web browser Safari, using GPL-covered work—it will be interesting to see to what extent the iPhone uses GPLed software.”
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The GNU GPL version 3 will be released at 12:00pm (EDT)—six hours before the release of the iPhone—bringing to a close eighteen months of public outreach and comment, in revision of the world's most popular free software license.
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 LinuxRichard 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/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 FoundationThe 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 ContactsJoshua Gay
Free Software Foundation