July 27, 2006
The Free Software Foundation (FSF) and the Software Freedom Law Center (SFLC) today have released the second discussion draft of the GNU General Public License (GPL) version 3 (GPLv3). This new draft marks the middle of a year-long public review process designed to evaluate proposed changes and to finalize a new version of the GPL.
The GNU GPL is the most widely used free software license worldwide: almost three quarters of all free software programs (also known as “Free/Libre and Open Source Software”, or FLOSS) are distributed under this license. Since the GPL’s last revision more than 15 years ago, free software development, distribution, and use have changed tremendously.
Since the release of the initial GPLv3 discussion draft in January, members of the free software community have submitted nearly one thousand suggestions for improvement. Many have continued the discussion at international GPLv3 conferences held in the United States, Brazil, and Spain. With the help of discussion committees, the Free Software Foundation and the Software Freedom Law Center have considered all the issues raised by public comments. The new draft of GPLv3 contains extensive revisions in light of these comments.
“We have considered each suggestion with care,” said Eben Moglen, founder and Chairman of the Software Freedom Law Center, which represents various free software projects and is assisting FSF in revising the new license. “By listening to people from around the world, we are working toward a license that acts consistently in many different legal systems and in a variety of situations.”
“The primary purpose of the GNU GPL is to preserve users’ freedom to use, share, and modify free software,” said Richard Stallman, founder of FSF and original author of the GPL. “We depend on public review to make the GPL do this job reliably.”
About the Revisions
The new draft clarifies that the license only directly restricts DRM in the special case in which it is used to prevent people from sharing or modifying GPLv3-covered software. The clarified DRM section preserves the spirit of the original GPL, which forbids adding additional unfree restrictions to free software. GPLv3 does not prohibit the implementation of DRM features, but prevents them from being imposed on users in a way that they cannot remove.
Other significant revisions in the new draft include a reworked license compatibility section, and provisions that specifically allow GPL-covered programs to be distributed on certain file sharing networks such as BitTorrent.
Additionally, this release includes the first draft of the GNU Lesser General Public License (LGPL) version 3. The LGPL license covers many free software system libraries, including some published by the Free Software Foundation.
The text of the new GPL and LGPL drafts can be found on the web at <http://gplv3.fsf.org/>. The site also includes audio commentary from Eben Moglen; a rationale document which describes the changes to the new draft; and further information about the GPLv3 revision process. As with the first draft, community members are encouraged to submit comments online at gplv3.fsf.org.
Throughout the remainder of the process, there will continue to be international GPLv3 discussion conferences, including one next month in Bangalore, India. A third discussion draft of GPLv3 is expected to be released this fall, and the final version will be released between January and March of 2007.
“Last November, we published a document which outlined the process for drafting the new GPL,” said Eben Moglen, chair of SFLC. “As of now, we are still on schedule for a final release in early 2007.”