PR: GPLv3: Recent Misleading Information
Sep 26, 2006, 12:45 (20 Talkback[s])
(Other stories by John Sullivan)
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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