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2006-10-01 GPL Version 2 Only

Reading the latest Linux Kernel developers' position Linux Kernel developers' position about the GNU General Public License version 3 drafting process, I tend more and more to follow their position on the subject. I was already not in favor of the extended clause about Patent into the draft version 3. The reason behind was not the one followed by the kernel developers. My main concern is to justify the existence of the patent system for computer program. Validating the system, not really existing in EU, could be quite dangerous and open the gates to justify its creation. The section 7. of the GNU General Public License is clear enough and while not playing directly in the patent field. The section 11. of the current draft of the GPL version 3 is more difficult to understand and could be used as an argument to not use the GNU General Public License and/or block the use of the patent system as a defensive tool (ok, not always a good idea). But excluding the possibilty for potential developers to use the latest version of the free software license is limiting the potential extension of free software… I'm also wondering why the potential geographic limitation (like the ITAR restriction) is included by default in the draft. I still don't understand why is by default ? The less potential ground for creating restriction seems better for free software.

Other free software authors are willing to keep the GNU General Public License version 2 only, like BusyBox… Will you use the "or later" clause or the v2 only clause ?

Update : The current view of Alan Cox about the draft of the GPL version 3 is quite interesting. The vagueness of the GPL version 2 was an advantage as the FSF was doing his own and clear interpretation of the license. If the FSF is trying to be objective in the next version, we start to have a very fixed free software license where FSF couldn't "extend" when required (and the lawyers will have the final word). I'm pretty sure that the final interpretation of the version 2 of the license at the FSF was not really fixed at the date of its publication. I hope that the FSF will enhance the latest revision to something more flexible… for them.

Update2 - 2006-11-27 : A potential update in the current GPL version 3 draft is quite interesting. The latest "deal" between Novell and Microsoft using software patents to create a kind of isle between part of the free software. That problem could be fixed in the updated draft of the GPL version 3. That has been stated by Richard Stallman during a conference -

[Section: The Novell and Microsoft example]

However, there's another way of using software patents to threaten the users which we have just seen an example of. That is, the Novell-Microsoft deal. 
What has happened is, Microsoft has not given Novell a patent license, 
and thus, section 7 of GPL version 2 does not come into play. 
Instead, Microsoft offered a patent license that is rather limited to Novell's customers alone.

It turns out that perhaps it's a good thing that Microsoft did this now, because we discovered that the text we had written for GPL version 3 would not have blocked this, but it's not too late and 
we're going to make sure that when GPL version 3 really comes out it will block such deals. 
We were already concerned about possibilities like this, namely, the possibility that a distributor might receive a patent license which did not explicitly impose limits on downstream recipients but simply failed to protect them.

What if one company pays Microsoft for a patent license where Microsoft says "Alright, we won't sue you, but we're just not making any promises about your customers if they redistribute it". 
We had already written a downstream shielding provision into GPL version 3 saying 
that if you convey the program, and you are benefiting from a patent license that is not available, that does not extend to the downstream users, 
then you have to do something to shield them.

This is, it turns out, inadequate in two ways. First of all, "shielding them" is vague. We're replacing that with a specific list of methods, and second, once again it assumes that the distributor has received a patent license, 
so the Microsoft/Novell deal cunningly does not give Novell the patent license, only Novell's customers.

Well, now that we have seen this possibility, we're not going to have trouble drafting the language that will block it off. We're going to say not just that if you receive the patent license, but if you have arranged any sort of patent licensing that is prejudicial among the downstream recipients, that that's not allowed. 
That you have to make sure that the downstream recipients fully get the freedoms that they're supposed to have. The precise words, we haven't figured out yet. That's what Eben Moglen is working on now. 

Yes, such text introduced in the license will continue to support software patent but on the other hand, it starts to block the illegitimate usage (if there is any legitimate use of software patent ;-).